News From Terre Haute, Indiana

December 21, 2013

Christmas Crunch Upon Us

Shoppers scrambling for last-minute gifts

Dianne Frances D. Powell
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — A little boy named Tyler sat happily on Santa’s lap at Honey Creek Mall in Terre Haute on Saturday morning and took the opportunity — perhaps his last opportunity to see Santa before the holiday — to tell him what he wants for Christmas.

“I want planes,” the 31⁄2 -year-old said.

Even before Santa sat on his chair at the photo business, which opened at 10 a.m., Tyler, his older sister, Trinidy, and mom Brooke Sapp were already one of more than a dozen families lined up for last-minute Santa pictures.

It was very important for Sapp to let the kids see Santa when they visited the mall for last-minute shopping.

“I want to make sure they feel the magic,” she said.

Trinidy, 6, who sat on Santa’s other lap, wanted an “Ariel swimming set” and “Lalaloopsy House with all the Lalaloopsies,” which Sapp later explained are dolls and a doll house.

The family was at the mall early to finish shopping for Christmas for a family member who was at work that day: Daddy.

The trio got him a few red items they thought he’d like “because red’s his favorite color,” Trinidy said.

Sapp, who started Christmas shopping two months ago, said she was already done shopping for the kids. She was just finishing up some last-minute shopping “because that’s when I got paid.”

Retail stores in the area saw a lot of activity during the last weekend before Christmas.

Stein Mart, which is inside Meadows Shopping Center on Terre Haute’s east side, had extended holiday hours but still had people shopping until closing Friday, which store manager Gloria Schopper called “a good day.”

Three people waited at the door even before the store opened at 7 a.m. Saturday, said Anita Criss, assistant store manager, who worked during the store’s opening.

And sales have been good.

“Every day this week, we beat last year,” Schopper said, and one popular item appeared to be Christmas linens.

She said the concept of decorating throughout the home is catching on.

“It’s not just about putting up a tree anymore,” Schopper said.

Registers stayed steady all day Friday and were already busy early Saturday.

“Every year, we have those last-minute shoppers,” Schopper said. “Time just catches up with them,” she added.

With 10 years experience as store manager, Schopper noticed a particular kind of last minute-shopper over the years: “the guys.”

Another experienced retail professional noticed the same thing.

Brian Dillion, owner and artist at West Coast Airbrush, said that in November and early December, he usually sees “moms, grandmas, wives,” in other words, the females, in the store for Christmas shopping.

“The last two weeks [before Christmas],” he said, it’s “dads with their kids and single guys.”

“It’s almost like clockwork,” Dillion, who runs the business on Honey Creek Parkway, said. Dillion airbrushes T-shirts, sweatshirts, vanity license plates, and other items with names, phrases and other designs.

Like other retail stores, West Coast Airbrush also saw a lot of activity this weekend.

“Yesterday [Friday], it finally seemed to really pick up. It was the best day we’ve had in quite a while,” Dillion said.

Thanks to last-minute shoppers.

“People are reaching that panic point,” he said, of having to shop for the fast-approaching holiday.

What’s popular? T-shirts with names of family members on it.

His product appeals to many people because “it is personalized” and not off the rack, he said.

But the overall holiday sales are down, Dillion said.

“I don’t know if these last four or five days are gonna pull through and make up for it,” he added.

The store is open noon to 5 p.m. today; 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday and 10 a.m. to  4 p.m. Christmas Eve.

Back at Stein Mart early Saturday morning, one “guy” did some last-minute shopping.

Alexander Jacque Jr. of Terre Haute had not bought a single Christmas gift until Saturday and he planned to finish his shopping that day.

He said it was hard for him to shop earlier because of his work schedule, which required him to work on weekends.

“Today, I’m off and I’m able to do my last-minute shopping,” he said, as he held several potential gifts in his hands.

His list included gifts for his parents and fiancée. He went to the store early because he wanted to get the best chance of having the items and sizes he was looking for in stock.

And he planned to visit different stores to compare prices and look for bargains.

But only until noon because “I’m trying to stay away from the crowd.”

“I’m an early bird shopper,” he said.

Tribune-Star Reporter Dianne Frances D. Powell can be reached at 812-231-4299 or dianne.powell@