Shoppers Flock to Stores for Last Minute Gifts

Shoppers Flock to Stores for Last Minute Gifts

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- The downtown Salt Lake City malls -- normally a lunchtime hot spot for something to hit the spot -- were bustling Tuesday with shoppers trying to beat a deadline.

Possibly no one had a better excuse for the last minute dash than Utah Jazz guard Carlos Arroyo, just back from a nine-day road trip.

He and his wife, Xiomara, were at the Crossroads Mall looking for gifts to take to children at Shriners Hospital.

"I have a great opportunity," Arroyo said. "To give back means a lot to us."

The entire Jazz team visit Shriners and Salt Lake's Primary Children's Medical Center earlier in the month, but Tuesday was just for Arroyo and his wife, said Cindy Edman a Jazz Spokeswoman.

"Carlos decided that he wanted to provide Christmas for some kids," Edman said. "So we directed him to Shriners. This is just Carlos doing something nice on his own."

Don't count Harper Loyning, of Salt Lake City, among the rash of procrastinators.

"I'm down to stocking stuffers, so I'm three days ahead," he said.

He's bypassing traditional gifts for his wife this year, instead focusing on items for her new office.

"I quit getting her clothes because I kept seeing those go to Goodwill," he said.

Landon Lewis, of Salt Lake City, was also doing some last minute shopping for his wife.

"She pretty much takes care of everyone else," he said.

Lewis said he did a good deal of his shopping online, but decided to hit the pavement for his wife's gifts so she could take them back, if necessary.

Mabel Jeppson, visiting family from her home in Fort Worth, Texas, was filling a basket with candy at a bulk candy store.

"Getting goodies for the stockings," she said, before admitting she had gifts yet to buy, too.

Retailers across the country are banking on these just-in-time shoppers to help raise their holiday haul. This past weekend -- viewed as critical by retailers to offset slow business earlier in the month -- did not bring the numbers most were hoping for.

Tim Barnes, manager of a SuperTarget store in Midvale, at the heart of Salt Lake City's suburbs, says he's noticed a sharp increase in the numbers of shoppers since Saturday.

"A lot of people shopped that weekend after Thanksgiving," Barnes said. Then it was like a drought.

"Definitely ever since Saturday business has increased," Barnes said.

Electronics, particularly video game systems, are a hot items right now, he said. Toys also are flying off the shelves, and shoppers also have started stocking up on the grocery side for holiday cooking, Barnes said.

It's not the same bright story for one downtown Brookstone store, said manager Karen Magann.

"We were up Saturday, down Sunday and Monday and today is so-so," Magann said. "People are buying things, just not the big ticket items.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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