Time running out for last-minute gifts

With the clock winding down, Marietta resident Clint Marcum is just about done with his Christmas shopping while his wife, Mariah, is just getting warmed up.

“I’m more prone to be done three weeks ahead of time,” said Clint, 27. “I’m just more prone to be organized.”

Mariah, 28, didn’t disagree.

“I like the hustle and bustle of last-minute,” she said. “I already bought some things for him, but now I’m changing my mind” and looking at other possibilities.

For early birds and procrastinators alike, there are only four more shopping days until Christmas. And stores from big-box retailers to the Grand Central Mall in Vienna to local specialty shops are extending their hours in hopes that those finishing touches and last-minute selections come from them.

“For us, it’s kind of like a bunch of Saturdays back to back,” said Cat Bigley, owner of S.W.A.G.G., Stuff We All Give and Get, on Front Street in Marietta.

The store was open two hours later than normal Friday, has extended hours Saturday through Monday and is operating 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday.

“We have regulars that we see every Christmas Eve,” Bigley said.

Some of those late arrivals are folks who are back in town for the holidays. Amy Baumann, 20, in from Vancouver, British Columbia, is among them.

“It’s really a great place to shop at because it does have something for everybody,” she said Friday at S.W.A.G.G.

Baumann noted the shop is next-door to the P.R.I.D.E. Dojo, which Bigley and her husband also own, and said certificates for classes including martial arts, belly dancing and more offer another category of gift possibilities.

“It’s like you’re giving them an experience, not an item,” she said. “Those are the gifts that I look forward to getting.”

Other possible presents that don’t take up any additional space include honorary gifts like a brick on the walkways – one for veterans, one for any community members – at Armory Square in Marietta (available from WASCO Inc.) or other community gathering spaces; or a membership to the Wilds, the safari park and conservation center north of Marietta, or a similar destination. Charitable organizations like UNICEF and Heifer International accept donations in people’s names, with cards to send to them representing the gift.

While there are still a few days left before Dec. 25, Marietta resident Autumn Castin, 33, was pretty much down to the last minute as she crossed items off her list downtown Friday. Her family is having Christmas on Saturday.

“I’m shopping today, and I have to wrap, and I’m still about two presents short,” she said.

Castin said this isn’t the first year she’s been a down-to-the-wire shopper.

“I put it all off to the end ’cause I work and then I want to go home,” she said. “And then I’m like, ‘Uh-oh, it’s only three or four days away.'”

The Cook’s Shop on Front Street was doing brisk business Friday evening. It was the last planned stop for Williamstown resident Bill Shank, 64.

“This is my very last (purchase),” he said after checking out. “Unless there’s more inspiration, of course.”

Shank admitted finishing up on Dec. 20 was early for him and said he’s usually shopping on Christmas Eve out of a sense of “building spirit” that leads him to additional last-minute ideas as well as “desperation” over items he still hasn’t acquired.

The latter is not a position in which Warren Township resident Paul Anderson, 39, wants to find himself.

“I have in the past. I try to avoid that now,” he said as he and son Steven, 7, walked back to their vehicle with their final gifts in tow. “You end up getting something you don’t really want to get somebody.”

Beverly resident Bonnie Ramsey was shopping at the Marietta Kmart Friday but not for Christmas presents – she’s already wrapped that up.

“(I) start about a month ahead, usually about half of it I get on the Internet,” she said.

Shopping on Christmas Eve is not on Ramsey’s wish list.

“I don’t like the long lines and the no parking,” she said.

Many retailers around the country are hoping there aren’t a great number of shoppers thinking like Ramsey. They’re looking at Saturday, traditionally the second-biggest shopping day of the year, and subsequent days to help make up for lost sales due to weather, stagnant wages and a compressed shopping season with Thanksgiving coming later than usual, among other factors, according to the Associated Press.

Some stores, like Kmart, are staying open around the clock for the next few days. Tammy Harkins, soft lines lead at the Marietta Kmart, said they’ll be open until 10 p.m. on Christmas Eve and she expects it to be busy most of that time.

“We were mostly the only store in town that was open” late last Christmas Eve, she said. “There were a lot of last-minute shoppers.”

For those who simply aren’t sure what to get, gift cards are a popular option. And the Marietta Area Chamber of Commerce offers its own take on that in the form of Marietta Bucks, redeemable at nearly 100 area businesses.

Some websites offer printable gift cards so people can have a physical gift to give without venturing out into the crowds.

Marietta resident Cheri Wells, 48, won’t be looking into any of those options in the next few days. Her shopping is done.

“I did it all in one day last week,” she said.

Wells said one way she and her family accomplish that feat is by paring down and focusing more on spending time together than getting a bunch of gifts.

Candy Waite, who operates the Gospel Mission food pantry in Harmar, said a Christmas present doesn’t have to be a physical item or cost a dime.

“Gifts come in many different ways,” she said. “It doesn’t have to be a bought thing.”

Gifts of time, peace, love and happiness can be even more valuable. Waite will have the chance to share those, and some needed food, on Christmas since it falls on Wednesday, the pantry’s normal distribution day. The pantry will be open from 9:45 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Waite said volunteers are welcome to join her.

“There’s no other place I’d rather be than to spend it with my blessed lord and savior on his special day,” she said.

And speaking of the reason for the season, Joel Vogel, pastor of Crown of Life Lutheran Church in Marietta, had another no-charge, no-object present suggestion.

“There’s no greater gift that you can give than of the word (of God) itself and just sharing the message of ‘Christ the savior is born,'” he said.