American shoppers are working the last nerve of the U.S. retail industry this holiday shopping season with last-minute shopping activity that has forced many retail chains to increase their own last-minute activities. Many major retail chains have unexpectedly extended their store hours this week in order to increase the number of last minutes that shoppers will have to spend money on Christmas Eve, and even on Christmas Day. Despite the gift of extra shopping hours, though, the best last-minute shopping options may still be found online with the websites that offer e-gift cards and e-gift certificates.
After Super Saturday snowstorms sucker-punched both retailers and shoppers, many major retail chains scrambled to extend store hours to make up for the sales-stifling weather disaster. In the hours and minutes before Christmas Day 2009, the most desperate of the last-minute consumers will be found roaming the aisles of these stores looking for anything that is marginally appropriate and gift-worthy. The stores that will be happily opening their doors for last-minute shopping include:
- 7-Eleven - Open 24 hours through Christmas
- CVS - Many stores open 24 hours through Christmas Day
- K-Mart - Open 24 hours through 10:00 p.m. Christmas Eve
- KTA Super Stores - Some stores open Christmas Day
- Macy's - Some stores open 24 hours through 6:00 p.m. Christmas Eve
- Safeway - Some stores open Christmas Day
- Starbucks - Some stores open Christmas Day
- Target - Open until 7:00 p.m. Christmas Eve
- Toys 'R Us - Many stores open from 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Christmas Eve
- Walgreens - Many stores open 24 hours through Christmas Day
- Wal-Mart - Open until 8:00 p.m. Christmas Eve
The best of the last last-minute gift shopping options, though, may be e-gift cards and e-gift certificates, which can be purchased on the websites of more than 40 retailers through Christmas Day.
The electronic versions of gift cards and gift certificates work just like their physical counterparts, without the plastic. When you purchase e-gift cards or e-gift certificates, they will either be delivered directly to the recipient via e-mail, or you may be given the option to print them out from your own computer. This printed version can be wrapped in a gift box or tucked into a greeting card. If packaged well enough, this tech-savvy nifty gift can look like it was actually a planned and thoughtful purchase.
One caution about e-gift cards and e-gift certificates is to make sure you read the terms. Some of them can only be redeemed online, and not in brick-and-mortar stores. That might not be the best option for great Aunt Sophie who thinks computers are demonic devices of moral destruction. Another caution is to check for cutoff times. Some websites do have deadlines for making purchases on Christmas Day. You'll want to know what their scheduled "last minute" is so that you can schedule your own.
Speaking of gift cards, many companies are offering bonus incentives to gift card purchasers this holiday season. So if you are generous enough to give the gift of food and beverage from the Melting Pot, California Pizza Kitchen, the Cheesecake Factory, Denny's or T.G.I. Friday's, for example, you'll get to eat, drink and be merry at those same restaurants yourself with the bonus gift cards the chains will give you for free. Since many of these restaurants will be open on Christmas Day, the ultimate procrastinators can purchase their gift cards and gift them on the same day. Just make sure to leave enough time for the glue to dry on the envelope before the giving occurs. Otherwise, you're busted.
Retailers know that there are going to be a record-breaking number of last-minute purchases made this year, and they are eager and willing to do whatever it takes to be the recipient of as many of those last-minute dollars as possible. At least that's the prevailing attitude this year. The underlying hope, however, is that by this time next year, Americans will be back to their old habits of shopping early and shopping often.