Last-Minute Shoppers May Hit Stores

December 21, 1999

Last-Minute Shoppers May Hit Stores

If you run a bricks-and-mortar retail store, your holiday rush probably isn't over. Reports say procrastinators and disappointed Internet shoppers may be on their way to your store late this week.

While the busiest shopping day of the season used to be the Saturday before Christmas, last year Visa USA set a record for the number of transactions recorded Dec. 24 – 2,702 sales per second for the 24-hour period. This year, says The New York Times, the company predicts 3,200-3,500 transactions per second the day before Christmas, with the busiest hour expected to be 2-3 p.m. Eastern time. "Procrastination is rampant," a Visa spokesperson told the Times.

Meanwhile, Internet shoppers are telling tales of pathetic customer service, out-of-stock merchandise, botched orders and late deliveries, according to Associated Press. Some shoppers are giving up and heading to the malls instead.

Large Web merchants, including Amazon.com and Toysmart.com, are so backed up top executives are helping in the warehouse. Others, such as Wal-Mart, are warning on-line customers they can't guarantee delivery by Christmas. "Many are cutting off standard delivery, telling customers they will have to pay a steep premium to get the goods there fast," AP says.

The problem doesn't seem to extend to higher-end jewelry customers on-line – in fact, several jewelry e-tailers are promoting free overnight shipping and arrival guarantees to encourage last-minute shopping on their sites.

- by Jack Heeger and Stacey King