Helpful hints for last-minute Christmas shoppers
Did you know ... ?
• Holiday retail sales are expected to increase 4.1 percent over 2011's numbers.
• On average, shoppers will spend $749.51 on holiday gifts, decorations, cards and more this year.
Source: National Retail Federation
With its twinkling lights, messages of joy and party after cookie-laden party, Christmas comes just once a year.
Even so, the holiday has a tendency to sneak up on people. And as the clock ticks down to Santa's arrival, many find themselves searching for last-minute gifts.
With traffic on Navarro Street backed up for more than a mile on the way to Victoria Mall, the crowds in the retail center could be daunting for shoppers.
Nikki Barnes, of Victoria, was amazed when she got stuck in front of H-E-B Plus! on the way to the mall, needing to purchase a few last-minute gifts.
"I just started praying, 'Lord, give me patience,'" Barnes said.
Her daughter, Zakari Perry, 11, said she has a new plan to avoid shopping right before Christmas.
"Sometimes it's good to do it after Christmas because things are on sale," Zakari said, thinking her friends and family can probably wait a few days for presents so she can get the good deals.
Barnes said her advice for last minute shopping is to be patient and make the presents simple and quick.
For those who still need to get shopping completed, there is help.
Here, Crossroads retailers offer tips for finding that perfect gift, even in a time crunch.
The Internet is an amazing tool. Not only can you shop from the comfort of home, but oftentimes you can still shop in the area. Order online or check out businesses' inventories through their websites before hitting the stores. Remember, you can often avoid shipping fees and long lines by ordering online and picking up in-store.
Take advantage of extended hours
Retailers often stay open later as the holidays approach. Remember, customer traffic tends to be slower during the week.
Look over store policies
Many items will go on sale as Christmas nears, but make sure you know the store's return and exchange policies. Can you take a sale item back if the gift doesn't work out? Also read through shipping information so you know whether that gift will get to you by the holidays.
Don't let last-minute panic break the bank.
Know your budget and stick with it, even if you're shopping in a crunch. Have a list, complete with what you want to buy and how much you can afford to shell out.
Remember there's an app for that.
Smartphone or tablet apps can help ease shopping stress in a variety of ways. They allow people to scan barcodes, compare prices online, grab up coupons and more.
Look for added bonuses.
Some stores offer special perks such as free gift boxes, or even free wrapping. Taking advantage of such deals can make life simpler.
Go for a gift card.
Cards are a simple option, and they give the recipient freedom to choose whatever they want. If you order your gift cards online, you can often print them on the spot.
If you're shopping at the last minute this year, you've probably done it before. Some people naturally get an early start, while others don't. Breathe, relax and continue on. You'll get it done.
Sources: Melissa Earl, manager of A Special Stitch, Eny Faultersack, owner of Animal Palace, Kecia Haas, owner of Teacher's Toolbox, Erin Rodriguez, media and public relations coordinator with the Better Business Bureau's Austin headquarters, Sonia Saenz, owner of Sonia's Boutique, Bianca Tristan, manager of Cell Fashions, ShopAtHome.com news release
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