GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - On this final Monday before Christmas, holiday shoppers found some deep discounts at retail stores. But that probably didn't do enough to save what's predicted to be a dismal holiday shopping season for merchants.
Traffic around area shopping centers on Monday was rather hectic. Moms, dads and Santa's elves had last minute presents to buy. So, retailers slashed prices to get their merchandise off shelves, and under trees. The experts predict that holiday sales will be at their lowest levels in four decades because people aren't buying as many gifts as they once did.
The customer at a Best Buy register admitted that she was a present procrastinator. "I am," Schelle Holloway said. "I'm guilty. I'm sorry." Like so many others wandering through south Mississippi stores on the Monday before Christmas, Holloway made it a point to wrap up her holiday shopping under budget. "Yes. Definitely. You have to," she said. "You don't want January to come, and then you're like I have to take this back, and this back. And you don't want to ask your kids for their toys back."
Steve Bueno was just as careful with his shopping selections. Consequently, his grandchildren will be happy on Christmas morning. And the banks will be happy on December 26th. "You've gotta stretch and give a little bit. But we kept to a budget," Bueno said.
For shoppers like Ed Reed, this pre-holiday rush is the best time of the year, even if the economy is a bit weak. "We just have to have Christmas, and do as much for other people as we can and know that you know it's tough, and it's tough on everybody right now," Reed said. "And a little love will go a long way baby."
Leon Carrubba had that love in his hands. He was walking through Wal-Mart with Christmas wish lists from his two sisters. "They give you a lot of options," Carrubba laughed.
Dad had the final say about how much money Leon could spend on the two girls. "We have to cut back a little bit. It's been kind of tough. But it's going to be okay," Leonard Carrubba said.
Not everybody shared the elder Carrubba's desire to be giving, and frugal at the same time. For instance, Ed Reed said, "Budget? Budget? We ain't got no stinking budget," when he was asked about cutting back on holiday shopping.
And Dorey Mejia said she would spend freely because "my children are worth it."
With three days to go before Christmas, the store manager at Gulfport's new Best Buy has figured out the weak economy won't hurt his bottom line. Sales on everything from large ticket items like TVs, to smaller ticket items are all surprisingly strong. "It's been surprising," Steve Moses said. "I mean where a lot of people are looking at layoffs, I'm asking for more people just to serve the community."
For the last month, his sales agents have been trying to keep up with the frenzied holiday demand. Ed Reed had a colorful description of the shopping frenzy. "You can be part of the zoo. Or you can be eaten by the zoo," he said. "And I'm going to choose to be part of the zoo today because it's a lot healthier."
Reluctantly, Leonard Carrubba was part of the zoo as well. But his visit was on a budget. "Christmas isn't about the gifts anyway. It's about the caring and the sharing. And that's what counts," he said.