Shoppers make final rounds

It wasn’t the last-minute shopping that worried Carmen Heverly, walking through the Logan Valley Mall with bags under her arm 12 hours before Christmas.

“The wrapping – that’s what’s making me crazy,” she said.

Heverly of Unionville in Centre County was one of hundreds scouring malls and shopping centers Tuesday – the last day available for most. Some had put off their purchases; some were in search of 11th-hour sales.

Heverly was a little bit of both.

“Time just got away from me,” she said. “But this seemed like the best day to do it, since it’s the last day to do it.”

For procrastinators, deal-seakers and the easily overwhelmed, Christmas Eve shopping is an old, if dubious, tradition. Some companies report surges in Dec. 24 sales: It was retailer Target’s busiest day last year, according to analysts.

Others report consistently strong sales for the week leading to Christmas, though national analysis firm ShopperTrak on Monday reported a 21-percent drop in final-week store visits since 2012.

Despite the poor numbers nationwide, strip malls and plazas in Altoona appeared crowded in Tuesday’s last few business hours.

While shoppers of every stripe hurried between stores, mall employees pointed to a single demographic as the worst offenders.

“It’s mostly guys coming in, just last-minute stuff,” Macy Rinehart said as she adjusted displays at J.B. Robinson Jewelers. “They don’t care what it is. They’ll just be like, ‘I’m looking to spend $200, sterling silver.'”

Her view was seconded by workers at the American Red Cross gift-wrapping table, where volunteers wrapped last-minute purchases from a largely male clientele.

Business was good Tuesday, wrapper Dorothy Benton of Altoona said – so good that the volunteers risked running out of supplies.

“We’ve had to turn people away sometimes,” she said during a brief lull. “It’s getting crazy. I put a big sign up, ‘Closing at 3:30,’ so they all know.”

Not everyone shopping Tuesday was worried about the limited time.

A bored-looking husband on a bench explained that his wife was doing all the shopping – he was there just to keep her company. Others said they’d finished shopping long before and had driven to the mall to watch those less skilled at planning.

“I finished it all yesterday,” Ashley Lynn Caffey of Hollidaysburg said, adjusting a bow on a gift. “I just wait for the last minute because [if not], I’d just keep buying and buying and buying.”

For some, though, it’s all about keeping a good mindset. Heverly said she wasn’t sweating the late hour, even as her family prepared to open gifts today.

“When I’m done, it’ll be done,” she said.