It's not quite the last minute, but we're getting awfully close.
The last Saturday before Christmas consistently delivers the second-largest shopping day of the year, with only Black Friday coming out ahead for shopping traffic. And if the record-breaking crowds over the Black Friday weekend this year are any indication, so-called Super Saturday will be big.
"We are definitely braced for crowds on Saturday," said Missy Steiner, the owner of Merchants on Main in Chattanooga's Southside. "I'm sure there will be some last-minute panicking."
A record 190 million U.S. consumers shopped from Thanksgiving Day through Cyber Monday this year, an increase of 14% over last year's 166 million, according to the National Retail Federation. With only 9% of Thanksgiving weekend shoppers reporting they were completely done with their buying, most consumers still have plenty of holiday shopping left to do in December, the National Retail Federation reported.
This weekend is a bonanza for local retailers in particular, said Brad Plothow, vice president of corporate marketing for Womply, a company that tracks small-business data.
"Last year, the last two weekend days before Christmas were the No. 1 and No. 2 days of the years for sales at local retailers," he said. "You have a lot of things working in small retailers' favor, including the fact that with the explosion of e-commerce you have natural logistical constraints around shipping."
Top shopping days
11/29/2019 – Black Friday
12/21/2019 – Super Saturday (Saturday before Christmas)
12/26/2019 – Day after Christmas, aka “Boxing Day,” in some global regions
12/14/2019 – Two Saturdays before Christmas
11/30/2019 – Saturday after Black Friday
12/22/2019 – Sunday before Christmas
12/23/2019 – Monday before Christmas
12/28/2019 – Saturday after Christmas
12/27/2019 – Friday after Christmas
12/07/2019 – First Saturday in December
A tight shopping season may also drive a busy Super Saturday, industry watchers said. Because Thanksgiving fell as late as possible this year, there are just 26 shopping days from Black Friday to Christmas Eve. That's six days fewer than last year and the smallest number of days possible between the two holidays.
There are only three Saturdays in December before Christmas this year and Saturdays traditionally generate some of the biggest shopping activity, according to ShopperTrak data.
Hamilton Place mall will extend its already extended hours on Saturday, opening at 9 a.m. and closing at 11 p.m., said Stacey Keating, marketing and communications director for the mall.
"Those that waited are definitely feeling the pressure to finish in time," she said. "We expect big crowds this weekend."
Malls and local retailers have the last-minute advantage as the holiday draws near and the odds of shipping a gift in time for Dec. 25 arrival dwindle, she said.
"The closer you get to the holiday season the easier it is to shop brick and mortar," she said. "Being able to walk out with that gift is a benefit all year round, but especially during the holiday season."
The mall will be closed on Christmas Day, but it's open 8 a.m.- 6 p.m. on Christmas Eve and 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Dec. 26 — another day for big crowds.
"There are a lot of great deals, people want to use their gift cards and make exchanges," she said.
Merchants on Main will be open Sunday, which is normally a day off, to accommodate the last-minute weekend shoppers. And Steiner will open Merchants on Main on Christmas Eve to help the hardcore procrastinators.
The fact that her store will wrap any gift makes the shop a good bet for folks who need to walk out ready to hand off a gift, she said.
"We're open 10 to 2 on Christmas Eve, and it's incredibly pleasant," she said. "Everybody is so nice. I don't have any big screen TVs for sale, so no one is fighting over anything."
Contact Mary Fortune at email@example.com or 423-757-6653. Follow her on Twitter at @maryfortune.