And retailers are hoping they'll do just that, and a late surge will rescue what by many accounts has been a lackluster holiday season.
The head of the retail industry's largest trade group says "the Gucci belts are tightening" this season -- but discount chains are doing well.
Tracy Mullin of the National Retail Federation says most merchants will turn in a respectable holiday showing, with total sales of between ten and 20 (b) billion dollars.
She says discounters such as Wal-Mart and Target have seen boosts in their holiday sales, because consumers are looking for the best bargains.
The volatility in the stock market has challenged some upscale retailers like Neiman-Marcus. But Mullin says that doesn't mean those retailers are weak -- they're just not basking in the usual glow from Wall Street.
At the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City outside Washington D.C. shoppers were lined up Friday at the charity gift-wrapping stand.
Customer Service Representative Grant Moro says although it's been busy this year, he thinks it may be "a little slower than the last couple of years."
One shopper says she believes the long election process this year kept everyone --quote-- "glued to our televisions" and away from the stores.
The retail industry says rising interest rates and gas prices, worries about the stock market, the close presidential election and bad weather combined to put a damper on sales.
The International Council of Shopping Centers reports sales at specialty stores in the nation's malls were down more than eight percent for the period from November 24th through December 17th, compared to the same period last year.
The group's holiday report tracks sales from more than four-thousand specialty stores across the United States. The national sample does not include department stores and other mall "anchors."
Kmart is keeping stores open for 86-hours straight, through 8 p.m. Christmas Eve, to attract shoppers.
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