The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

December 22, 2013

Final weekend before Christmas produces shopping-mania

By Budd McLaughlin

— The parking lots were flowing over around the area and downtown Athens was abuzz as shoppers took advantage of warm temperatures on the last Saturday before Christmas.

Local retailers said it was a “slow” holiday shopping season and it was a shorter-than-normal season because of the late Thanksgiving holiday. But they remained optimistic as the day wore on.

Some national chains began staying open constantly on Friday, not closing until Christmas Eve.

Kohl's, which has stores in Huntsville and Decatur, for the first time is staying open for essentially five days straight, from 6 a.m. Friday through 6 p.m. Christmas Eve.

Kmart is opening some of its stores for more than 100 hours in a row from Friday through Christmas Eve. And Toys R Us is staying open for 87 hours straight starting Saturday, which is typically the second biggest shopping day of the year.

The parking lot at the Walmart on U.S. 72 was jammed practically all day Saturday. Shoppers were pushing their carts full of merchandise to their cars, as other drivers sat, waiting for the vacant parking space.

“We won't know any numbers for November sales in Alabama until the first week of January,” said Nancy King Dennis, director of public relations for the Alabama Retail Association. “I know the stores are filled with people shopping. As to whether they are spending more than last year, we'll just have to wait and see.”

Out on the roads, traffic was heavy as the almost last-minute shoppers went on their patrols.

Downtown Saturday, shoppers strolled the sidewalks checking out what the stores had to offer.

The parking around the Square was at a premium, as well, leaving some to park in the places about a block away.

U.G. White parked its iconic truck in front of the store as a lure for customers.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.