More shoppers wait till last minute

A shopper looks at a sale item in Saks Fifth Avenue in New York City.

TEXT OF STORY

AMY SCOTT: Chances are some of you are listening to this as you pull out of a shopping mall parking lot. Or maybe even into one. Call it last-minute. Or maybe just thrifty. From Boston, Jeremy Hobson reports.


JEREMY HOBSON: Outside Boston's upscale Copley Place mall, shoppers are shuffling out to waiting cabs, their hands full of bulging shopping bags. Many say they have no time to talk to me. Some waited till the bitter end in the hopes of finding last-minute deals.

SHOPPER: I just bought a very expensive item for about 50 percent, yeah.

This phenomenon is nothing new, says Boston College Professor Kathleen Seiders. But she says it's a growing trend.

KATHLEEN SEIDERS: We're lazier, we're busier, and we have less money to spend.

She says the growing popularity of gift cards is also allowing shoppers to wait. The numbers indicate many are pushing things right down to the wire. A survey from the American Research Group found just 71 percent of Americans had completed their Christmas shopping as of yesterday, down from a typical 85 percent.

All the last-minute purchasing means Bill Martin of Shoppertrak doesn't have a final read on the season just yet. But he's predicting 3.6 percent growth over last year.

BILL MARTIN: Well, I think it's a good year, not a great year.

Martin and Seiders agree when it comes to procastinators, there's one group of people in particular that keep retailers biting their finger nails right up till the last minute: Men.

Like this guy, who says he shops last-minute every year and always finds good deals.

SHOPPER 2: Twenty-five to 40 percent off pretty much everywhere I went.

HOBSON: So you'll keep up the tradition next year?

SHOPPER: Will do!

In Boston -- and heading out to get one last thing -- I'm Jeremy Hobson for Marketplace.

SCOTT: Those brick and mortar retailers can pin some of the blame on the Internet for keeping shoppers away. Online spending from November 1 through last Friday increased 19 percent from a year ago. That's actually the slowest pace since research firm ComScore started tracking these things five years ago. Analysts blame high gas and food prices, the housing slump. ... You know, the usual suspects.

About the author

Jeremy Hobson is host of Marketplace Morning Report, where he looks at business news from a global perspective to prepare listeners for the day ahead.

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