Holiday shopping heats up on final weekend before Christmas

  • Angela Hundley and her children Neena, 11, left and D.J. 12, relax as they prepare for their next round of Christmas shopping at the Santa Rosa Plaza, Friday Dec. 21, 2012 in Santa Rosa. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat) 2012

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.

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