Early Morning Shoppers Avoid Lines, Crowds

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – The clock is ticking on holiday shopping, but gift-buying procrastinators were in luck Monday as several stores are holding marathon shopping hours until Christmas.

As WCBS 880’s Jim Smith reported outside of Macy’s Herald Square early Monday morning, not a creature was stirring except shoppers taking advantage of round-the-clock hours.

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With just two days left before Christmas, shoppers were jamming the stores and hunting for gifts online, CBS 2’s Amy Dardashtian reported.

As 1010 WINS’ Gary Baumgarten reported, some people out shopping on Monday were embarrassed that they waited so long. But one man, James, said he planned it out that way.

“I’m from Australia, so I came overseas. The prices are better here than back home,” he said.

James said he will be opening and exchanging presents on Christmas Day in New York.

Macy’s and Kmart are opening some of their stores for more than 100 hours in a row from Friday through Christmas Eve. And Toys ‘R’ Us is staying open for 87 hours straight starting on Saturday, which is typically the second biggest shopping day of the year.

Shoppers leaving Macy’s with bags in tow around 4 a.m. Monday said the early wake-up is worth it.

“Just get some deals on holiday gifts,” one woman said.

“Less stress, less people,” another early shopper told Smith.

“It was the best. I took my time, there was no lines, everything was so fast,” said another shopper.

“It’s not too bad, I was in and out,” a shopper told 1010 WINS’ Roger Stern.

“Very convenient, they definitely helped save my holiday shopping. It wasn’t too many people, you go in early and you get everything you need in there,” East Williamsburg resident Justin Sosa told Dardashtian.

But as CBS 2’s Amy Dardashtian reported Monday, last-minute gift-hunting was not as crowded this year as years past – even with round-the-clock hours at many major retailers. The big-box retailers have been facing major competition from online retailers and smartphone apps.

“We’re doing a lot of Amazon.com; a lot of online shopping,” one shopper said.

The National Retail Federation estimated that nearly half of all shoppers will do the remainder of their shopping online, sending stores to desperate measures to attract customers.

Indeed, the expanded hours in the final days before Christmas are reminiscent of how some retailers typically begin the season on the day after Thanksgiving known as Black Friday. The strategy comes as stores try to recoup lost sales during a season that’s been hobbled by a number of factors.

This holiday shopping season is also six days shorter than last year.

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Despite a recovery economy, many Americans have been struggling with stagnant wages and other issues. On top of that, the time period between the official holiday shopping kickoff on Black Friday and the end of the season is six days shorter than a year ago. That has given Americans less time to shop.

Sales at U.S. stores rose 2 percent to $176.7 billion from Nov. 1 through last Sunday, according to ShopperTrak. That’s a slower pace than the 2.4 percent increase the Chicago store data tracker expects for the entire two-month season.

The disappointing growth pace has put more pressure on retailers to get people into stores in the final days before Christmas. A lot is at stake because they can make up to 40 percent of their revenue in November and December.

“It’s make or break for the retailers,” said C. Britt Beemer, chairman of America’s Research Group, a consumer research company. “They have to make up for lost ground.”

Nearly half of all shoppers plan to do the remainder of their shopping online, according to the National Retail Federation.

This year, some are foregoing traditional gifts and getting creative on websites like bookatailor.com.

“They can customize suits, customize shirts. Anything they want,” Jacomo Hakim told Dardashtian.

The website Givted lets you crowdfund to raise money for expensive gifts. Shopthea.com suggests gifts that inspire and give back instead of ones that just cost a lot, Dardashtian reported.

“It’s not all about presents and gifts,” said Katrina Garcia of the Bronx. “It’s more about being together.”

This isn’t the first year retailers have used marathon hours to lure shoppers. Toys R Us is open from 6 a.m. on Saturday to 9 p.m. on Christmas Eve – the fourth year it’s had marathon hours at the end of the season. And this is the third year Kmart has offered round-the-clock hours: The discounter will open a little more than one tenth of its 1,100 stores from 6 a.m. on Friday until 10 p.m. on Christmas Eve.

Macy’s began testing its 24-hour strategy in 2006, but it has made tweaks this year. Most Macy’s locations were open for 48 hours straight during the final two days before Christmas last year. But this year, 37 of Macy’s 800 stores will be open for 107 hours from 7 a.m. on Friday to 6 p.m. on Christmas Eve.

The rest of Macy’s locations will be open between 7 a.m. and 2 a.m., Friday through Monday. And on Christmas Eve, most Macy’s stores will be open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.

“Our customers love the option to shop late night, overnight and/or first thing in the morning,” said Elina Kazan, a Macy’s spokeswoman.

Workers at the stores staying open around the clock are mixed on the marathon hours. Some say they dislike it, while others were happy to make some extra money over the holiday season.

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