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Holiday shopping heats up on final weekend before Christmas


Forget about Black Friday. The busiest shopping day of the year dawns on Saturday, and the bargain hunting is not likely to let up until Christmas Day.

A growing number of people are waiting to do their shopping until later in the holiday season, in some cases to avoid the post-Thanksgiving frenzy, analysts say. And one online study shows that retailers are now offering deeper discounts that are significantly below Black Friday levels.

On Friday, Jocelyn Cronin of Petaluma came away from Macy's at Santa Rosa Plaza with several "puffy jackets" that she purchased for $16 each.

"I bought for my daughter and my daughter-in-law and, of course, me because I'm not passing up a bargain," Cronin said.

Cronin usually avoids the early hours of any sales promotion, including Black Friday. Instead, she shows up toward closing hours when there are fewer customers.

Her husband, a recently retired Redwood City firefighter, heard on the news Thursday night that retail stores were going to offer deep discounts this weekend rather than after Christmas.

"I'm guessing Saturday or this weekend should be crowded if anyone is paying attention to that," she said.

An estimated 132 million shoppers, or 68 percent of Americans, have yet to finish their shopping, according to a Consumer Reports poll released this week. The survey found that shoppers have spent a median of $340 on gifts so far, nearly $140 less than they had indicated they would spend this year.

"A lot of people sat out Black Friday," said Consumer Reports spokesman James McQueen. "More and more people are waiting &‘til later in the season."

McQueen said Black Friday is a "novelty event" and that Consumer Reports studies show that sales the day after Thanksgiving are rarely better than they are the rest of the season.

That's exactly what Chris Garlotta found by analyzing online data compiled by ZingSale.com, a service he co-founded in 2008 that tracks prices daily of some 350,000 products for its customers. The service alerts customers when something they want goes on sale.

The average discount has grown to 43 percent today, compared to 33 percent two weeks ago, Garlotta said. In general, the best prices for products online can be found between Dec. 10 and Dec. 23, he said.

"That's when you're going to get the absolute best prices retailers are going to have all year," he said.

Kim Hall, a spokeswoman for Simon Property Group, which owns Santa Rosa Plaza, said there seemed to be a "lull" after Black Friday and that people waited a little longer to do the bulk of their shopping.

"Thanksgiving fell earlier this year so there's an extra weekend of shopping," she said.

Hall said that while there are deals to be found on Black Friday "not everyone is out for a big-screen TV. Not everyone is a Black Friday shopper."

Adolfo Alonso of Lake County is both a Black Friday and a last-minute shopper. Alonso, who drove down from Lakeport on Friday, said he does most of his shopping for his kids on Black Friday and then waits until just before Christmas to shop for the adults in his life.

"Honestly, I see the better deals closer to Christmas, when I'm shopping for my mom or wife," he said.