Drugstores, convenience chains and others have expanded their desperation selections for the holiday season.
PORTLAND, Ore. (TheStreet) -- There are two human responses that make a person click on a link about holiday shopping on Christmas Eve or later: desperation and schadenfreude.
Christmas decorations were being sold in department stores and home-and-garden chains in September. By October, candy canes had appeared in supermarkets and retailers held their first sales. In November, shoppers were in Target (:TGT), Wal-Mart (:WMT) and other stores as early as Thanksgiving night taking advantage of holiday sales. If shoppers bypassed Cyber Monday, Green Monday and Free Shipping Day and waited until today or later to shop, it's not the wisest move, but they're not alone.
According to the National Retail Federation's survey of holiday shoppers conducted this season, only 11.3% of people shopping for Christmas presents planned to have any shopping left to do by Dec. 13. While there are folks who hold off on gift exchanges until just after Christmas, New Year's or the Feast of the Epiphany -- the traditional end of the 12 days of Christmas on the Christian calendar -- there are some who've just been preoccupied for the past few months and had the holidays sneak up on them.
Don't worry, it happens.
While the sales may not be so hot, shipping isn't an option and many stores are already closed, there are still a few ways for procrastinators to finish up their holiday shopping today or even tomorrow. We took one last look around the pre-holiday landscape and found five options for the most desperate holiday shoppers. For the rest of you, just consider them five strong examples of why you were wise to finish early:
Cash-hungry retail chains
If the big box stores were cool with hosting Black Friday sales in July and tempting shoppers into missing Thanksgiving dessert, there was no way they were going to miss out on those last-minute holiday purchases. The kind elves at the blog Offers.com put together a list of all the stores open on Christmas Eve, and it's not exactly short.
Best Buy (:BBY) and Costco (:COST) get points just for opening the doors, but if you're working today you may want to consider a long lunch break or a hasty exit to avoid their 5 p.m. closing time. Sears (:SHLD), Nordstrom (:JWN), JCPenney (:JCP) and Kohl's (:KSS) give commuters a fighting chance by staying open until 6 p.m., while Nordstrom Rack and some Wal-Mart locations will be open until 8. Target woos latecomers by keeping doors open until 9 p.m., but Toys R Us, Kmart and Barnes & Noble (:BKN) make the desperation feel mutual by keeping the lights on until 10 p.m.
After Superstorm Sandy wiped out the Black Friday bump for several retailers, chains aren't above offering deals on Christmas Eve this year. Kohl's is promising a $10 coupon for every $50 spent, Target is handing out up to $130 in coupons for latecomers who buy Dyson vacuums. Wal-Mart, meanwhile, somehow managed to talk Apple (:AAPL) into a $60 discount on the iPhone 5, a $40 price cut for the iPhone 4S and a $100 reduction on the price of a third-generation iPad.
Digital gift cards
Oh, you can run out to a supermarket and pick up a gift card to just about any store or restaurant of your choosing, but why would you do that? Digital gift cards offer your last chance to finish up your shopping without leaving the house and dealing with the equally frazzled holiday hordes.
A 2011 white paper conducted by Aberdeen Group with Transaction Wireless found 76% of consumers surveyed planned to adopt digital gift cards in the near future. Transaction Wireless found that, a year later, the majority of gift card purchases have switched to digital. They're emailed to you or your recipient immediately, they're easy to personalize with text, audio or video, they can be used on a store's website and they're a great option if that last person on your list lives nowhere near you.
They've also come a long way in the past few years. According to rankings by gift card ratings site ScripSmart, companies including Gap (:GPS), Nordstrom, Macy's (:M), Home Depot (:HD) and even Yum Brands' (:YUM) Pizza Hut have made their e-cards simple to get, easy to redeem in stores or online and easy to use across multiple brands such as Gap's Old Navy, Athleta or Banana Republic.
The National Retail Federation found that 81% of shoppers planned on buying a gift card this year anyway. At the last minute, it's the simplest option.
Health and beauty stores
Let the big retailers have their Black Friday, Cyber Monday and everything else: Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are the health and beauty store's time to shine.
This isn't CVS (:CVS) and Walgreens' (:WAL) first time at the reindeer games, and each is pretty cutthroat about making sure the other doesn't hog all of the holiday fun. Each has 24-hour locations open Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Both have regular hours on Christmas Eve at stores that aren't open 24 hours and have something resembling normal hours on Christmas Day.
You're not going to find an iPad at these places, but if you think you can sneak a third-party Android tablet past an unsuspecting relative, CVS touts a couple of $99 models. You won't find that iPhone or Samsung Galaxy III S here, either, but Walgreens offers $149 prepaid T-Mobile smartphones. Admittedly, if you're coming here for anything more than some candy, magazines, razors or beauty supplies to stuff a stocking with, you're courting disappointment.
If you can find that elusive bad movie your sibling loves in the bargain bin or that pair of Pajama Jeans your mom is too embarrassed to buy on her own, though, these stores can make that last-minute trip count.
Insert your Slurpee and lottery ticket jokes here, but 7-Eleven has been the last refuge of hoiday scoundrels for years.
The Slurpee machine has since become self-aware and began stocking gift cards available for Zynga (:ZNGA) games on Facebook (:FB), iTunes music and movies, headphones, DVDs and, most importantly, batteries. It's great to have a stocking-candy nirvana open on Christmas Day just in case, but knowing they stock batteries on the one day that parents invariably forget that their child's favorite Christmas toy needs them earns 7-Eleven some seldom-received respect.
The folks at Priceline (:PCLN), Orbitz (:OWW), Expedia (:EXPE) and just about every airline in the world will be more than happy to book you a vacation this Christmas Eve. They'll take your money, they'll send you an itinerary quickly and, if you happen to book a trip for either those post-holiday "dark weeks" in January or the non-Valentines weeks in February just before spring break, you may just get a deal out of it, too.
"You just need to find a clever way to deliver it," Dan de Grandpre, founder and CEO of dealnews.com, told the Christian Science Monitor. "I did that once myself. I booked a Caribbean vacation on Christmas Eve and put my wife's bikini in a box. It's the ultimate procrastinator's gift."
-- Written by Jason Notte in Portland, Ore.
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