With lanes of traffic backed up for minutes and miles, the Oxford Exchange and Quintard Mall were packed Saturday afternoon as thousands crammed into shops to try and snag that last-minute gift on the final weekend before Christmas.
“It’s madness,” said Oxford resident Michael Harley, stepping outside the Best Buy at the Exchange Saturday afternoon. “You go in for one item and you stand in line for 15 minutes.”
So why wait for the last moment, when stores are likely to be at their busiest, and potentially, emptiest?
“Well, my work requires me to be out of town a lot,” said Roger Couch, walking to his car at the Exchange with a shopping cart from Target filled with wrapping paper, gift tags and bows. “And I needed to get a lot of Auburn and Alabama stuff and I can’t get that out of state.”
Travel seemed to be quite a theme for last minute shoppers. Andy and Mandy Carpenter said they were visiting family for the holidays, and decided to get shopping done while in-town, instead of traveling with gifts.
“We got up early, expecting crowds, but it hasn’t been as bad as we expected,” Andy said.
“It’s been bearable, we’ll put it that way” Mandy added.
For some shoppers, last minute gift-getting is unavoidable. Hartley said waiting until the last weekend was simply “money-based” as he and his wife needed to space out their big holiday purchases.
“We’re trying to do in increments,” he said. “Just piece-by-piece, as we can.”
As chaotic as the parking lots and traffic flow looked outside, shoppers Saturday said things seemed to be running smoothly inside. Lincoln resident Mellissa Cash said the hardest part about the weekend shopping wasn’t once you got in the store, but outside, trying to find a space to park.
That didn’t mean weekend shopping was necessarily panning out perfectly for everyone.
“There’s a lot of empty shelves,” said Mobile resident Hannah Crisp . “If you’re looking for clothes, there’s a lot of sizes missing, you can tell something big is happening inside.”
But it wasn’t always the big ticket items that were flying off shelves. Cash said the Target store at the Oxford Exchange was running low on wrapping and gift box accessories Saturday afternoon while she was finishing off her holiday shopping.
“Everything is pretty picked over,” she said. “But I guess that’s expected when you get down to the last day.”
Shoppers flooding the retail stores at the Exchange and Quintard Mall will likely slow down this week during the holidays, but it’ll probably just be a momentary calm before the next unofficial shopping holiday, holiday return season, kicks off next weekend.
Staff writer Brian Anderson: 256-235-3546. On Twitter @BAnderson_Star.