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It's the last-minute shopping rush for Fay-West shoppers

| Thursday, Dec. 24, 2009

Shoppers were crowding stores Wednesday searching last-minute Christmas gifts. And local retailers appreciate the mad rush.

"We've been so busy I didn't even have a chance to sit down once yesterday," said Linda Sparks, owner of Connellsville's West Side Jewelry. "Sales all this week have been very brisk."

Sparks said items such as Steelers gear and the new Pandora bracelets have proven to be especially poplar. She said the store's staff is ready for today's last-minute shoppers.

"We are waiting for our 4:30 club," Sparks said, adding the store closes at 5 p.m. tonight. "It's the men that come in for that last-minute gift. We see them every year."

Traditionally, the weekend before Christmas is one of the biggest shopping times for shoppers but the snowstorm that dropped several inches of snow in the area held down the record numbers of shoppers.

"Sales have been good," said Connellsville Wal-Mart manager Jack Yard. "But unfortunately the weather last weekend hurt business."

Yard said steady final week sales are strong.

"We are right on par for now. All the analysts predicted a late Christmas season and the people from this community are out shopping," Yard said. "We extended our hours this year and we are now closing at 8 on Christmas Eve."

Yard said some items, such as the Wii, are big sellers.

"Electronics is still busy," Yard said. "LCD TVs are big and Wiis are still big. This is the third year for them and they are still the top selling game console. And this year, I have plenty."

"Last-minute sales have picked up," said Susan Ruszkowski, manager of Joanne's Hallmark in the Summit Ridge Plaza, East Huntingdon. "We had that icy day and that held us back but right now last-minute sales are good. Right now we are selling a lot of boxed items and gifts to go. We are selling a good bit of jewelry and ladies accessories and Chuckle Buddy sales have been really good."

Ruszkowski added that the store is open until 5 p.m. tonight. Staffers expect that last-minute rush.

"We will see a lot of people coming in for last-minute things," Ruszkowski said. "Such as wrapping paper or cards or a last-minute little gift for someone that they didn't expect to buy for. And we'll see men who forgot."

"Business has been good," said Marty Savanick, owner of Collections by Marty, with locations in Scottdale and Donegal. "We are seeing a lot of gift certificates from people who don't know what to buy and a lot of Vera Bradley sales. We carry everything they sell in that line and its all selling very well."

Savanick said the Steelers line is also selling remarkably well even with the team's poor performance lately.

"We have sold a lot of Steelers things," Savanick said. "A Steelers fan will always be a Steelers fan."

Lucille King, owner of La Boheme in Connellsville, reports strong last-minute sales, especially in the smaller items such as one-of-a-kind ornaments.

"This last week has been really busy," King said. "I am selling a lot of ornaments and a lot of little gifts. The ornaments are really nice and people like them because they are different and perfect for someone like a boss who needs to buy several of an item."

"Our boxed food and ladies' cosmetic items are really selling," Yards said. "People see them and say hey, here is something nice and under $10 and it's perfect for them."

Last-minute shoppers hit the stores

Tonight is Christmas Eve. And with the minutes ticking away, many shoppers are still out searching for that perfect gift.

"I hadn't planned on waiting this year but we were out of town in the Philly area and we weren't able to shop there over the weekend," said Jasmine Nichols of Uniontown said who was shopping at the Uniontown Mall. "I'll tell you the truth, I'm finding some really great deals, especially on clothes. I might do this again next year."

Last year consumers tightened their budgets. But this year, local retailers say shoppers are out in full force -- even in the final hours.

"We do this every year and we love it," said Holly Wright who was shopping with her friends. "We all have somewhere we want to go and we have a schedule. So far, we were able to get everything we want."

"The crowds seem bigger this year," said Trish Layman who was with Wright. "Last year we did this and we were the only ones at some of the stores we went to, but then, we were the first ones there in the morning when the doors opened."

Last-minute shopping is also a tradition for many hurried husbands.

"My wife can't take it but I always shop on the last days before Christmas," Kirk Young of Connellsville said. "She has her stuff all bought and wrapped and under the tree but I'm the one that gets the good deals."

"I'm out this time every year because I'm a big gift card buyer," Francie Connors of Mt. Pleasant Township said."I love gift cards. I enjoy getting them and I like to give them. This way, it's like giving someone a little shopping spree that they don't have to pay for. That, and they get to take advantage of the after-Christmas sales so I kinda look at it that I'm really giving more because they end up getting more if they use them right away."

Connors added that gift cards and gift certificates are always available so waiting last minute is never a problem.

"I have only once ever went somewhere and wasn't able to get what I wanted," Connors said. "I wanted a gift card for Red Lobster for my assistant and they were out. I found out later that she couldn't eat seafood so it all worked out anyway. I had ended up giving her a card to another restaurant and she loved it."

"I think it's amazing," Roger Fisher said. "The sales have been great. I saved enough to buy myself something from Santa."

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