LAST MINUTE CHRISTMAS SHOPPING HOT SPOTS
* Hamilton Place Mall: 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. today; 10 a.m. to 10 p.m . Sunday, 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday and 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday
* Northgate Mall: 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday, 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Christmas Eve
* Bradley Square Mall in Cleveland: 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday, 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Christmas Eve
* Walnut Square Mall in Dalton: 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday, 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Christmas Eve
* Toys-R-Us - Open from 6 a.m. Dec. 21 to 9 p.m. Christmas Eve
* Kohl's - Open 6 a.m. Dec. 20 to 6 p.m. Christmas Eve
* Starbucks - Some locations open Christmas Day
* Walgreens - Open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Christmas Day
Sources: Toys-R-Us, Kohl's, Walgreens, Macy's, GoBankingRates.com.
Last-minute Christmas shoppers are crowding the aisles of area stores today — a push many retailers hope will help boost what's turned out to be a tepid holiday shopping season.
Big-ticket items like electronics, appliances and furniture are the retail winners this year, with sales up between 8 and 9 percent over last year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. But overall, holiday sales are creeping along with a slow but steady climb.
The National Retail Federation expects holiday shopping to grow by 3.9 percent this year, just a bit over last year's actual 3.5 percent growth. But surveys by the Gallup polling company suggests that growth rate will fall to around 2.5 percent this year.
The higher projections could be realized with a strong weekend: only 12 percent of consumers had finished their holiday shopping by Dec. 16, the trade association reported. Some retailers are staying open 24-hours-a-day with hopes of capitalizing on last-minute shoppers.
"I've got a few gifts left to buy," shopper Cristy Salley said while shopping this week.
At The Painted Lady Boutique in Cleveland, store owner Betty Scott said she's not seen strong sales this Christmas season.
"It's been pretty close to the worst [Christmas]," she said. "We've been busy, but people are not buying like normal. It seems like buying online and Black Friday really hurt the small merchants this year."
Online shopping has hit historic highs this year. About 50 percent of shoppers -- the highest ever recorded by the National Retail Federation -- plan to finish their holiday shopping online during the final days before Christams. And national shipping companies are sending record numbers of packages this week, driven by online sales.
But on Chattanooga's Southside, Merchants on Main shop owner said she's seen a surge of customers trying to buy local and avoid malls.
"It's definitely busier than last year," she said. "And I think people are looking to shop locally. There is a personal touch you can't find in a mall."
The average American will spend about $740 on Christmas this year, according to Gallup. That's down from last year's average of $770, but higher than initial projections that sat as low as $704.
Ollie Forte browsed the toy section at the Target on Gunbarrel Road and said she expects to spend more this year.
"I've got 10 grandkids," she said. "I don't set an amount to spend. I just try to get something that will warm their hearts. My company just gave me a nice promotion so I've planned that I would blow a paycheck."
Contact staff writer Shelly Bradbury at 423-757-6525 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Shelly Bradbury covers police and crime in Chattanooga and Hamilton County for the Times Free Press. She's been with the paper since 2012, working first as an intern and then as a business reporter. She is from Houghton, New York, and graduated from Huntington University in Huntington, Indiana, with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and minor in management. Before moving to Tennessee, Shelly previously interned with The Goshen News, The Sandusky Register and The Mint ...