Retailers thrilled with last-minute rush

Melissa Westphal

Retailers are feeling the rush of last-minute shoppers streaming through their doors, which is helping boost their confidence and their bottom lines after a dismal holiday season one year ago.

Holiday shopping procrastination is nothing new, according to the National Retail Federation’s 2009 Holiday Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey conducted by BIGresearch. The average person had completed 46.7 percent of their holiday shopping by the second week of December, which is actually the lowest percentage since 2004.

Nearly 42 million people, or 19.1 percent, hadn’t started their shopping as of late last week. But only 11.9 percent of shoppers said they would be out on Christmas Eve searching for last-minute gifts.

Annie’s Gifts & Home Accents saw lots of traffic this past weekend, particularly on Sunday, President Cheryl Karney said.

“I’m pleased to see local people supporting local retailers,” Karney said. “Things have been going really well this whole Christmas season. ... It’s made it fun again as a retailer to have this much business and seeing people come through the doors.”

Karney said shoppers have been looking for unique present ideas, especially hostess gifts and stocking stuffers. And the store has done a brisk business with its table stacked with gifts for $25 or less — already wrapped.

The store’s free gift-wrapping has been one way for some shoppers to ease some holiday stress, Karney said.

Sprucing up the home for hosting relatives and friends this season factored into the recent sales boost at Vaughn’s Home Furnishings in Rockford.

Co-owner Stacey Vaughn said furniture sales have done well this month.

“We’ve been surprised at the number of people who’ve come in buying furniture and bedding,” Vaughn said. “They’re looking at not just buying what they need but also good support and customer service.”

Vaughn said the store is about 6 percent ahead of last December at this time and up about 12 percent for the whole year. He said the company’s busiest time of the year tends to be January through March, when people spend their income tax returns.

“We can’t rely on that, but we’ve brought in more inventory for it,” Vaughn said. “It’s not just one month or a seasonal thing for the most part. Primarily what we hear from our customers is that we’re taking care of them, and that’s what you have to do to stay in business.”

Vaughn said the store hired two more people this month and is looking to hire two more.

Melissa Westphal can be reached at (815) 987-1341 or

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