LAKEWOOD - Millions of Americans started their holiday shopping nearly one month ago. Most of them have everything wrapped up under their trees by now, as they comfortably await the start of their Christmas celebrations.
For others, today won't be quite so relaxing.
If national studies and local business owners are to be trusted, last-minute shoppers will roam in and out of Chautauqua Mall and various other local shops throughout the day.
Brytney Annis, front, and her mother Debra examine items inside Hallmark in Lakewood. Although the women live in Florida, they choose to shop at Chautauqua Mall once they arrive in the area to celebrate Christmas.
P-J photos by Scott Shelters
"On Christmas Eve, we'll be busy," said Kristy Adams, manager of the Lakewood Hallmark. "That's when we'll traditionally see a lot of men in here."
According to a Los Angeles Times report, more than 23 million Americans will leave the comforts of their homes to either start or finish their shopping today. As Adams and Creative Imports owner Karen Swerdon believe, more men will have thinner wallets by the end of today. The report shows 17 percent of men will Christmas shop today nationally, compared with 13 percent of women.
"Men are last-minute shoppers. There's no question about that," Swerdon said.
Last-minute shoppers vary by more than just gender. Age and personal preferences factor in.
People from ages 18 to 34 tend to shop on the day before Christmas more than any other demographic, the report states. A predicted 21 percent of those individuals will visit stores today.
Swerdon won't be surprised if she's busy. She's used to receiving business from last-minute shoppers at her Fairmount Avenue and Chautauqua Mall locations. She's not complaining about it either.
"I depend on the local shoppers, and I'm here to serve them," she said. "I think when they shop depends on their personality type."
Some people choose to shop at the last minute in hopes of saving money. Others choose to shop on Thanksgiving or Black Friday for the same reason.
More than 28 million people shopped on Thanksgiving and millions more did so on Black Friday weekend, according to the National Retail Federation website. Shoppers spent an average of almost $400 during that weekend, including about $150 of online spending per person, the site states.
"December is down. I think people spent it all on Black Friday," Swerdon said.
Locally, enough shoppers visited the Lakewood Wal-Mart on Thanksgiving night to fill up the majority of the building's surrounding parking lots. Some shoppers parked across Fairmount Avenue, while others parked at Chautauqua Mall.
"Black Friday weekend was big," Adams said.
Some would rather not deal with the hectic crowds of the holiday shopping season. That's why Brytney and Debra Annis choose to shop in Lakewood rather than in their Florida neighborhood.
They traveled back to the Jamestown area for the holidays.
"My mom and I do all of our shopping up here," Brytney said. "We save a little money, and we don't have to bring everything up here with us."
Brytney's aunt Tammy Annis waited to complete most of her shopping until she traveled to the mall with her niece and sister this week.
"I think it's less crowded now," she said. "I like to go through the Black Friday ads to see what I want to get people. Then, a lot of the items are still on-sale now."
According to Adams, waiting until the last minute happens frequently, and some stores lower prices just to get rid of items.
"The last 10 days are huge. Some people just do it traditionally; they just wait until the last minute," she said. "Some people are looking for the deals. Sometimes that works."
Some local store owners experienced a decline in sales between Black Friday and the final 10-day stretch before Christmas. Swerdon believes the lack of snow led fewer people to stores earlier on in the month. Some took advantage of clear roads to shop in nearby cities such as Buffalo and Erie, Pa.
Mike Mills, owner of Backroads Creations, a seasonal store in Chautauqua Mall, noticed a similar trend.
"The mall is pretty slow in the early part of November. A lot of people don't realize that a lot of seasonal stores come in then," he said. "Everybody comes in now. Everybody seems to wait until the last minute. Near Christmas, it's fantastic."
Due to the last-minute trend, Mills chooses to keep his store stocked up throughout the holidays.
Kristin Volpe, manager of Hickory Farms in Chautauqua Mall, didn't think her stand would have much left in stock by today.
"It has picked up a lot these past few days. We've sold out of almost everything," she said on Monday. "Even on Sunday nights it was busy. I think everyone is trying to get it done now so they can spend Christmas Eve at home."
Volpe said a lot of Hickory Farms' patrons chose to take the week before Christmas off to finish shopping before the weekend.
Adams and Mills have noticed changes in spending tendencies.
"They're probably spending less per person, but trying to find a more sentimental gift," Adams said.
"They're smart consumers," added Mills. "They're checking prices; they're coming back."
About 75 percent of Backroads Creations' sales come from items purchased for $20 or less, Mills said. The seasonal store's products range from $2 to $70 dollars, roughly.
The area store owners and managers believe local residents who put off their Christmas shopping until today will still be able to find what they need, especially if it's just a gift card.
According to several employees at Chautauqua Mall stores, gift cards are expected to be hot today, especially for male shoppers who couldn't decide what to buy for anyone this holiday season.
The brave men and women who wander through stores in search of other items should still find what they need, according to Swerdon.
"There's fabulous stuff in this area," she said. "People don't have to go very far."