Procrastinators keep cash registers jingling
Some Houston-area shoppers stood in line for hours and put up with pushing and shoving — all for the chance to buy the new Air Jordan shoe.
But most were less emotionally invested in what they bought Thursday. They just wanted to get it done.
They flooded stores, aware that the pre-Christmas shopping season ends on today.
Meredith King, director of a nonprofit in Lake Jackson, said that for the past nine years she's put off her Christmas shopping until the last minute. She planned to do all of it Thursday.
A number of malls in Houston reported that business is up this holiday season over last, and stores have been particularly crowded the past few days with bargain hunters and procrastinators.
"This week has been extremely busy with last-minute shoppers," said Baybrook Mall general manager Brian Schroeder. "November sales were very strong, and we're expecting that's going to be the case with December."
Across the nation, business also has been brisk.
For the week ending Dec. 18, retail chain store sales were up 4.2 percent over last year and 1.7 percent over the previous week, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers-Goldman Sachs chain store index.
ShopperTrak recently forecast that Thursday would be the second-biggest sales day of the holiday season, behind only the Friday after Thanksgiving, when sales approached $11 billion.
Today also will be a busy shopping day, with 15 percent of American consumers age 16 and older heading to stores, according to the ICSC/Goldman Sachs holiday consumer tracking survey.
"There is a ton of traffic," said Karla Martin, who heads the North American retail division for Booz & Co., a San Francisco-based management consulting firm. Many consumers are discount hunting, Martin said.
"If you are willing to face the crowds, there are some real bargains out there but not always a lot in terms of choice," she said.
Hundreds line up
At several Houston-area malls, including Deerbrook, Northwest and Greenspoint, shoppers stood in line for hours to buy the latest Michael Jordan shoe, dubbed Air Jordan 11 Retro "Cool Gray," which went on sale Thursday morning. Shoppers paid about $180 a pair.
Police were dispatched to several malls to help monitor the large turnout.
At Deerbrook Mall along U.S. 59 in Humble, crowds were mostly cooperative, but some people became impatient at times as they pushed and shoved while standing in line, police said. Officers had been watching the swelling throngs since about 10 p.m. Wednesday. By 5 a.m. Thursday nearly 300 people were gathered outside the mall's several entrances.
Some of those doorways were damaged when the crowds shoved against them.
"I think the shoes are great," said 28-year-old Javis Scott. "I want a pair. I have to have a pair."
Most stores in Baybrook Mall opened at 9 a.m., but Foot Locker and a few other shoe retailers opened at 5 a.m. to sell the new Air Jordans. They sold out in about an hour, said Schroeder, the mall manager, and the process was orderly.
Many shoppers said they couldn't imagine getting so worked up over a shoe or any other product.
"I can't see being so aggressive for one item - there are always other things," said Baybrook shopper Kristen Montgomery, a student at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. She was in town to be with family for the holidays.
She had not begun shopping until Thursday, and expected to finish it by the end of the day.
Dickinson High School student Chloe Mark said she doesn't even like Jordan shoes - but that if her favorite Converse sneakers were in short supply, she'd be first in line to buy them.
Schoolteacher Betty Jo Kerbow, who was shopping at Baybrook Mall Thursday, plans to spend about the same for gifts this year as last.
"We just make a budget and stick to it. We buy lots of gift cards," Kerbow said.
Elizabeth Orozco, 24, who was shopping at the Best Buy at Katy Freeway and Bunker Hill, said, "I'm probably going to spend more money this year since I waited until the last minute."
Best Buy's store representative Athena Zorbas said the chain this year has seen a buying trend toward smaller portable electronics like iPads, smart phones and Kindle readers.
Zorbas said Best Buy is busier than during last year's holiday season.
Traffic also was up at the J.C. Penney in Meyerland Plaza, said manager Nelson Whittington.
A number of shoppers came in with 20 percent-off cards they'd received in the mail, he said.
Chronicle reporters Dale Lezon and Hiba Adi contributed.
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