'Tis the weekend of intense shopping
December 20, 1997
Last-minute shoppers at an Alexandria, Virginia, mall
Web posted at: 4:25 p.m. EST (2125 GMT)
(CNN) -- With Christmas only a few days away, frenzied
consumers were expected to crowd stores looking for
According to the International Council of Shopping Centers,
the Saturday before Christmas has -- for the last 10 years --
been the busiest shopping day of the year.
Some people may panic, because they still don't have a
present for their loved ones, but others may just keep their
cool and look for bargains.
Many retailers apparently were trying to reduce their glut of
merchandise by cutting prices in a last-ditch effort to sway
those undecided procrastinators and boost Christmas sales.
That strategy, by the way, might pay off.
Last year, 41 percent of all holiday shopping was done in the
final eight days of the season, according to industry
A survey released earlier this week by a South Carolina
research group found that 36 percent of respondents had more
than a third of their shopping left to do. Of that group, 54
percent said they would wait until the last minute to take
advantage of sales.
Internet sales on the rise
This holiday season marks the first time that ordinary
people, not Net-savvy gearheads, are shopping on the World
Wide Web, cementing 1997 as the year the Internet went
As more people who would otherwise prowl the mall or thumb
through catalogs take a look online, well-known retailers
like Gap and Lands' End are offering merchandise on the Web.
"This quarter is going to be the biggest quarter ever" for
online sales, said Andrew Kantor, editor-in-chief of Internet
Shopper, a magazine catering to the digital consumer. "Online
shopping is hitting the mainstream and real, honest-to-
goodness, ordinary people are shopping online."
Two children tell Santa their holiday wishes
Online retailing is still in its early stages. But more
consumers are shopping that way because they've recently
bought computers, and they're less worried about thieves
stealing their credit card number from the Internet.
Moreover, "you don't have to fight crowds, you don't have to
park, you don't have to deal with sales people," said Sam
Kline, a marketing consultant in Los Angeles who shops on the
Net for comic books and entertainment merchandise. "And
there's something really neat about buying something on the
Internet and having it show up a few days later. When the
mailman brings it, it's kind of fun."
Shopping on the Internet was only a dream in 1995, when only
a small fraction of the population was online and hardly any
retail sites were successful. But over the last two years,
the Internet has flourished, and more than 40 million people
are online in 1997, up from 27 million a year ago, according
to IntelliQuest Information Group and Zona Research.
Popular products sold online include computer hardware and
software, books, music, flowers and travel tickets.
However, Forrester Research in Cambridge, Massachusetts, says
only one in four wired people buy online.
Correspondent Gary Tuchman and The Associated Press
contributed to this report.