WHEELING - It is an image as closely associated with Christmas as holly or wrapped presents or pine trees - people hastily walk through stores and shopping centers on Dec. 24, looking to buy their final presents and get them wrapped with only hours to spare.
But it is not always by choice that some peoples' holidays come to this. For Allie Kalis and Emilee Carlton of St. Clairsville, a school schedule determines when they are free to hit the stores. When she does get the time to shop, however, Kalis said she prefers to avoid the big-box chain stores.
"It just ends up being this way with school and life," Kalis said as she explored Puddleducks on Market Street in Wheeling on Monday. "It's easier to come here and have a calm, quiet shopping experience."
Photo by Scott McCloskey
Piper Nida, 4, and her little brother, Cylis Nida, 2, of Bellaire get in a last-minute request to Santa on Monday afternoon at the Ohio Valley Mall in St. Clairsville.
As she shopped at J.C. Penney at The Highlands, Desiree Bumgardner agreed that life sometimes only allows certain times for things like shopping.
"I last-minute shop because I babysit and work another part-time job," Bumgardner said.
Stores also notice an increase in business during the final days before the holidays.
"This holiday season started a little slow, but it's been really busy these last few days," said Puddleducks co-owner Jill Allen.
She added that the weekends during the holiday season have also been very busy, especially with visitors coming from all over the country to visit family and friends in the Ohio Valley.
Team leader Matt Van Fossen at J.C. Penney agreed.
"Yes, I'd have to say that last-minute shoppers provide an extra increase in sales," Van Fossen said Monday.
For the Paradox Book Store, located near Centre Market in Wheeling, it is actually post-Christmas shopping that provides extra revenue toward the end of the year.
"Our big time is after the holidays, when kids get their holiday checks and then come shopping," said Paradox Book Store proprietor Tom Strobart.
Stores at the Ohio Valley Mall and Ohio Valley Plaza were packed with last-minute shoppers early Monday. Cars approaching the St. Clairsville retail centers lined up on Mall Road and the exit ramps from Interstate 70.
At stores like Staples and Wal-Mart, people were grabbing gifts ranging from electronics like computer printers and iPods to basics that anyone could use, such as new white socks and cozy pajamas.
Other shoppers were not seeking gifts at all. A few said they had come to the stores to browse for special deals on items they wanted for themselves, while several were gathering supplies for a special holiday meal.
And while some people were caught up in the hustle and bustle of achieving their shopping goals, many took time to wish those they passed a "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays."
At nearly every store entrance, the familiar ringing of Salvation Army bells greeted customers, many of whom stopped to drop change or dollar bills in the collection kettles to help their less-fortunate neighbors.