Stand tall, last-minute Downtown shoppers!

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December 3, 2002 // UPDATED 1:34 pm - April 30, 2007
By: Charlie Casserly
Charlie Casserly

The secret is out: it's better than planning ahead

As a card-carrying member of the Last-Minute Christmas Shoppers Club, I've found there's no place better for a Christmas Eve shopping trip than Downtown.

You should see the rolled eyes and headshakes I receive when I tell people I love shopping on Dec. 24. "I could never do that" fellow shoppers declare. (Their facial expressions say you'd think I'd just offered them an Ebola fruitcake.)

But I, for one, refuse to call last-minute shopping a disease: You can't call it procrastination when you plan to do your shopping on Christmas Eve!

I've also been one to do most of my Christmas shopping Downtown for many reasons, mainly to help keep our Downtown retail economy strong. Since consumer spending accounts for two-thirds of our nation's economy, and most retailers make a vast majority of their profits during the holiday season, it's easy to conclude if we don't shop Downtown at Christmastime, there might not be as many stores during the rest of year. And a strong retail environment enhances the rest of the Downtown experience. I'm just doing my little bit.

Last year, we heard pundits and policy-makers say shopping is our patriotic duty, and politicians urged us to get back in the stores. Well, cut back if your credit cards are maxed out. And I've always remembered what the Grinch discovered after his heart grew three sizes: "Christmas, it seems, doesn't come from a store."

I am not, however, a follower of "Buy Nothing Day in November." Since I am going to shop, I'm going to do it Downtown. And on Dec. 24!

And what does Downtown offer the last-minute shopper in the waning daylight of Christmas Eve?

Shopping in uncrowded stores with other hustlers and bustlers.

Parking in the ramps just a few feet from retail shops.

Stores already marking down their products!

There are, however, ugly stereotypes of last-minute shopping: Nothing left on the racks but size XXXXL. Dented toys and games suitable for the Island of Misfit Toys. Surly clerks who'd rather be home sipping Tom and Jerrys.

Well, it isn't so. Most stores still have plenty of products. And I've found Christmas Eve clerks aren't mad about working that day. A second job around the holidays is a popular thing: In 2000, the Labor Department said Minnesota led the nation in the number of workers who hold two jobs. We are a productive people.

There is a general excitement on the 24th. People move fast searching for gifts, and when they finally find them they are both happy and relieved. When I moonlighted at Dayton's on Christmas Eve years ago, company management types lined up to wish us Merry Christmas as we clerks filed out into the night. It was straight out of "Miracle on 34th Street."

Since last-minute shopping also means last-minute wrapping, I suggest power tools. A few years ago in a closeout bin, I found a product called a power scissors, and my wrapping productivity increased 10-fold! But if you don't have the time, drop the gifts off at your store's gift-wrap center; you'll pay for convenience, but it is a life saver! Then head to the food court for a greasy enchilada, and Big Gulp in hand, toast your success with your fellow last-minute shoppers.

Without a doubt, the most common last-minute shopper misconception is: all are men. However, plenty of women are out shopping on Christmas Eve; you just have to look for them. I'd say men are in the majority, but again, that's not a bad thing.

I'm sure the men planned it that way.

Charlie Casserly works Downtown.