AAA  Dec. 19, 2014 11:39 AM ET
Tick-tock: Tips for last-minute shoppers
By SARAH SKIDMORE SELL, AP Business Writer THE ASSOCIATED PRESS STATEMENT OF NEWS VALUES AND PRINCIPLES 
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In this November 2014 photo, employee Jen Sans points a customer in the right direction at a Target store, in South Portland, Maine. The National Retail Federation found in a survey that only 9 percent of shoppers finished their shopping by the start of December this year and nearly 15 percent hadn’t even started. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

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(AP) — The clock is ticking, and your holiday shopping list isn't complete.

Don't fret — you aren't alone.

The National Retail Federation found that only about half of shoppers had finished shopping as of Dec. 10. That means tens of millions will be ticking those final items off their lists in the coming days.

But procrastination doesn't have to mean desperation. Here are a few tips to help survive last-minute shopping:

—SEIZE THE DAY: Retailers know the rush is coming, and they are doing everything they can to attract last-minute shoppers. This includes extended shopping hours, expedited shipping and exclusive promotions.

That opens up lots of strategies for shopping that will keep you out of the crazy lines in stores at noon on Christmas Eve.

One tactic is to become a night owl. Many retailers are open longer in the week before Christmas. For example, Wal-Mart says its stores are open 24 hours a day up until 8 p.m. on Christmas Eve and it is offering shipping options up until Dec. 23. Toys R Us stores are open around the clock from the morning of Dec. 23 through 9 p.m. Christmas Eve; it also is extending its hours in the days preceding.

And many retailers, such as Best Buy, allow shoppers to find an item online and pick it up at a store. Even 7-Eleven is targeting shoppers, offering gift cards, toys and stocking stuffers in its stores.

The bottom line: Take advantage of those last-minute discounts and other deals.

— DO YOUR HOMEWORK: Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst at market researcher NPD Group, says many people do not yet know what they want to give, or get.

"These consumers are the ones who put themselves in a stressful situation," he said. "The one saving grace is online (shopping) is a chance for a lot of people to do their homework."

He said shoppers can narrow down their options ahead of time by looking online.

You can also check Amazon.com to see if the person has a wish list you didn't know about, or study Facebook or Pinterest pages for ideas.

Such prep work can save a lot of headaches and potentially limit last-minute impulse purchases that can prove costly.

— WEAR COMFORTABLE SHOES: Seriously, this is a common-sense step many shoppers skip.

"Wear comfortable shoes for goodness sake," Cohen said. "It (shopping) is exercise and it's not very comfortable."

Don't waste time cruising to find the closest spot to the store either, he said. Those comfortable shoes will make it easier to just park and walk.

Associated Press
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