With just eight days till Christmas, most Americans aren't even half done with their shopping.
Today is the last full Saturday to shop before Santa makes the rounds, and retailers plan to cash in big on shoppers who, according to the National Retail Federation, bought largely for themselves in November.
That makes today, dubbed by many retailers "Super Saturday," a day of shopping sprees second only to Black Friday.
"We're geared up, we've got everybody scheduled and we're expecting a lot of customers," said Marty Smith, manager of the JCPenny at Hamilton Place mall. "Every day from here to Christmas, it's going to be a big day."
LAST PAYCHECK TO SPEND
The National Retail Federation expects holiday shoppers to spend $469.1 billion this season, up 3.8 percent over last year. That's a good deal higher than the average annual increase of 2.6 percent, but still lower than the 5.2 percent jump retailers saw in 2010.
Still, consumers are expected to shell out billions over the next week as shopping days dwindle. Brandy Whaley, general manager of Walnut Square Mall, said she suspects the shopping season grand finale is a product not just of procrastination, but of pay periods.
"Any weekend after the 15th is always a great shopping weekend," she said. "That's the last paycheck a lot of people will get before the holiday."
Traffic has been steadily climbing in her mall all week, with a noticeable bump Friday, she said. She expects an even bigger spike today.
Bryant Stevens did his part to bump Friday sales in the area. He and his wife Anita were shopping for family gifts at Hamilton Place mall, but didn't plan to come back out today. The deals are definitely strong, Stevens said, but other shoppers can make browsing a bother.
"The problem is finding what you want," he said. "It's the same drill every year."
BLACK FRIDAY INDICATOR
Retailers often order inventory based on the success of Black Friday sales. This year's early shopping was unexpectedly strong, causing the National Retail Federation to revise it's initial spending increase projections up by a full percentage point.
David Burke, manager of the Hamilton Place Sears, said his store had a Black Friday on par with last, with electronic and tool sales performing particularly well.
To push sales even higher, Sears is holding door buster sales today and staying open through midnight.
"We definitely have the product this year," he said. "We have the TVs, we have the tools, we have stuff ready to go."
Marcy Carter, general manager of the Gap across the mall from Sears, is also gearing up for a huge day today. She said she had a great Black Friday, but is still trying to reel in the customers, discounting everything in the store 40 percent today.
"We've got a huge day this Saturday," she said. "It's obviously my second biggest day, but I'm going to try to push it towards Black Friday."
PLUGGING THE MALL
East Brainerd resident Kelley Belvins is expecting crowds to flock to the malls today. She said she tries to get her shopping done ahead of time, starting before Thanksgiving this year.
"I like to take my time," she said. "I don't do it in one big rush."
She may be atypical compared to most Americans, who are likely flooding shopping centers today.
She's been there before, she said, and the crowds can be too much.
"I try not to shop on the weekends unless I have to," she said.
Despite some grumblings about crowds, Katherine Wells, spokeswoman for Hamilton Place, said she expects shoppers to come out in some of the highest Super Saturday numbers ever. Her mall is outperforming others across the country in foot traffic, she said.
"The economy here does seem to be a bit stronger," she said. "We're definitely trending up."