A mother and daughter take some time to complete their Christmas shopping at a gift shop in Galveston, Texas, on December 23, 2017. (Xinhua/Robert Stanton)
by Robert Stanton
HOUSTON, Dec. 24 (Xinhua) -- With Christmas just around the corner, many Americans have not finished their holiday gift shopping and others will still be buying gifts on Christmas Eve.
"Even though many consumers got a head start with holiday shopping early in the season, millions more are leaving their gift buying to the last minute and beyond," National Retail Federation (NRF) President and CEO Matthew Shay said. "Stores will be packed the next few days as consumers rush to complete their shopping, and anybody ordering online at this point should probably choose in-store pickup as their delivery option."
The annual survey found that 53 percent of consumers - about 126 million people - plan to shop on "Super Saturday," the last Saturday before Christmas. Six 6 percent of consumers expected to be shopping on Christmas Eve, while 5 percent said they would finish their shopping after Christmas.
Of the consumers who had completed half or less of their shopping, 42 percent said they were still deciding what to buy. Others said they were waiting for gift requests, were dealing with financial issues or were too busy with other activities to complete their holiday shopping.
Nigerian native Saheed soaked up the sights and sounds of The Strand Street in Galveston, an island in the Gulf of Mexico, with his family. He said that shopping was the last thing on his mind.
"I spent about the same amount as last year on gifts," he said. Despite the large crowds and the frenzied pace of shoppers going in and out of stores, Saheed said he had no worries.
"It's not stressful," he said. "You can buy stuff online."
U.S. consumers went on a shopping binge last month as the holiday season began, resulting in to big gains for online retailers, electronics stores and furniture stores, according to the U.S. Commerce Department.
Sales at retailers and restaurants jumped 0.8 percent in November from the previous month, after a 0.5 percent gain in October, the Commerce Department reported. And online sales played a big part.
A category that mostly includes online shopping rose 2.5 percent, showing the dominance of e-commerce. Meanwhile, sales rose 2.1 percent at electronics stores and 1.2 percent at furniture stores.
NRF survey found that online shopping is a big part of this year's holiday season, with 51 percent of last-minute shoppers saying they planned to buy with the click of a mouse.
About 41 percent of shoppers surveyed planned to purchase gifts at department stores, 26 percent at discount stores, 21 percent at clothing or accessories stores, 18 percent at electronics stores, and 14 percent at local/small businesses.
"Similar to what we saw over Thanksgiving weekend, consumers are leveraging their smartphones to guide them on their final purchases for the holidays," Phil Rist, executive vice president of strategy at Prosper Insights & Analytics, said in a press release. "Retailers this year have needed to offer great deals online and encourage young people making purchases through their smartphones."
But for millennial Kaylee George of Richmond, Texas, the Christmas holiday season is about more than hearing cash registers ring.
"Christmas means to me that it's just not necessarily about the materialistic things that you get, or the presents. "What's most important is that you need to be grateful for the people that you have in your life, because life is short and you need to spend every moment with them as you can."
Cameron Judson of Pearland, Texas, agreed that the holidays have become too materialistic, with shoppers standing in long lines to get that perfect gift for family and friends.
"Christmas for us is a celebration," said Judson, who was with his son, Alan, and his wife in Galveston. "We' re Christians and for us it's the celebration of Christ and all good in the world around us. For us, that's what Christmas is - just being good."
Kenneth Kern of Bath, Pennsylvania, said he's taking it slow this Christmas season as he watched shoppers walk by carrying holiday presents.
"It's all about getting together with family, enjoying drinks and shopping for her," he said, pointing to his wife, Nancy. "I'm spending more because of her," he said with a laugh.