Last-minute shopping: finding grace under pressure

A man seriously inspects several pairs of boots in SoftMoc, while working a phone. He looks to be figuring it all out, but then suddenly seems filled with doubt.

Over at People’s Jewellers, anxious customers squint studiously at all that glitters under the glass and a full complement of staff aim to help them, hopefully, make the right choice.

Ah Christmas. It’s a joyous season, certainly, but for some shoppers the quest to reach finish line – where the shopping part is over – can be stressful. Shopping at the proverbial 11th hour, they might have finally hit upon the just-right gift idea, but with mere hours left before stores close up for the holidays, will the shelves have what they’re looking for, that late in the game?

Daniel, 21, has felt the pressure before. “You have a lot of pressure on you. It’s Christmas Eve and you’re
shopping. It’s pretty stressful.”

But not this year. He finished his shopping early. Sunday at Station Mall is a leisurely stroll and picking up some things for his dog. Barb exits Cole’s with a smile. She’s on the verge of completing her gift list and looks relieved.

“Just some last-minute gifts for my grandson. A book and hockey cards and whatever else I find,” she says. “This is my shopping today, last minute. I’m a procrastinator. But, I’m downsizing and keeping it simple.”

For Jamie, it’s not going to be quite that easy. “I’m going to try to get the shopping done as quick as I can,” she says. “I have to shop for 4-5 people. I waited until the last minute because I had a different event to do, for my sister yesterday, so I was focused on that.”

Buying for four or five people would stress out this writer, and maybe others, but not Jamie. “I don’t really feel too stressed about it, but maybe that’s just me, I don’t know.”

Retailers and their sales staff are generally prepared to assist last-minute shoppers. Salesperson Carey-Lynn, over at Roots, likes the buzz in the air at this time of the year. “I love it, because I’m a big shopper and I love fashions,” she says. “It’s hard at the last minute because of the limited stock that we do have left. But we usually find something nice for them. “Yesterday, I had a man that I shopped for last year, too. He had pictures of everything he wanted, and we had it, so that was good.”

Kaarina Harriman, at Tip Top, takes the same view. “I actually enjoy it, “ says Harriman. “I’ve been doing customer service my whole life. I like it when somebody says, ‘Can you help me?’ I take pride in putting together an outfit for a customer. “Men tend to be very flexible, I find,” she continues. “Like a lot of times they’ll say ‘just put me in something comfortable.’ I like that challenge. I like the busy-ness of it, too. I like how the mall get a kind of fun bounce to it, and then January just slows right down so…”

Natalie laughed when asked what her mission was Sunday at the mall. “They forgot to remove a tag off my short so I’m going back in to get it exchanged, she says. “I actually do have a few last-minute things to buy. But no pressure. They’re extras.”

For Natalie, one key to reducing the sometimes hectic nature holiday shopping was to de-emphasize the gifting aspect of Christmas. “I’m trying not make Christmas all about shopping and I have very few
people to buy for. In the last couple of years we’ve really reduced the amount of money that we’re spending and it’s more about the time we spend together. The last-minute things I’m picking up are just because there’s additional people coming over.”

With his family back home in the Phillipines, Rocky hit the mall to buy cool stuff for friends. He went to Church to start the day, then it was time to shop.

“The mission was successful today because I bought a gift for my new friends. I’m a 100 per cent sure, they’ll be happy,” he says, beaming.

He had no qualms visiting a busy mall on Christmas Eve. An unfortunate and recent incident has cooled him on purchasing online gifts. “I ordered a high-end item online a few days ago,” explained Rocky. “They
left the shipment outside my door. Once I came outside my door, my shipment was gone. Someone stole it. I don’t trust online anymore.”

Discovering that must-have item on your shopping list is unavailable can be disheartening. It happened to Cory and Amanda Sunday but they took it in stride.

“We actually were looking for part of a gift for our son,” says Corey, “that we couldn’t find anywhere else. So, a half success here. We have to go to another store.

(The couple were looking for a Nintendo switch light.)

They left home thinking the mall traffic would be crazy and were pleasantly surprised. “That’s why we came at like 11:15. Everyone’s been good. No one’s been cranky. Everyone’s happy.” Corey says online shopping really caught on during the pandemic, but mall shopping “is more rewarding, and there’s no having to wait.” The mall experience was still fun, though, Amanda. “I found out we have a SoftMoc today, which I didn’t know about. I had no idea,” added Amanda.

SoftMoc, Station Mall’s newest shoe store, was a busy as a bee hive Sunday. Salesperson Hannah Morin agreed traffic was heavy. “It’s kind of tricky when someone comes in at the last minute,” she says. “Most people do come in with an idea of what they want. Our big seller this year is our Uggs (a trendy name in both boots and slippers) and we’re sold out of a lot of them. So it can be hard to help them navigate something else that’s sort of similar.”

For some people, it can be tough to relax and feel assured that all the gift-buying bases have been covered, that the searching is, finally, truly over.

This form of shopping bug bit Nikki and a day before Christmas, she was compelled to set out to scratch that itch. “I am fighting the feminine urge, to add more to the gifts,” she says. “I have this thing where I’m all done, but then I put everything together and I’m like, I need more, so that’s why I’m here today.”
She says she doesn’t feel pressure and things have just clicked at every turn on the shopping front this season.

“I feel like it’s all been easy to find,” says Nikki. “I’m just looking for those little things to add to the gifts, and I’ve tried to support local. So I just came here to find the last-minute little things.”

Chantal Richards, at People’s Jewellers, finds the holiday season to be an exciting time to be in sales. If a customer is stressed and not sure what to buy, she relishes the opportunity to help. “It’s very exciting, because you get to hear different stories and everything. We had a (marriage) proposal in here a couple of days ago. It was nice. I like bringing joy to the people that come in. It’s nice other some of those stores and hear them say ‘Thank You, you know you saved my life’ when they’re buying last-minute gifts.
Richards gives an example from earlier in the week.

“There as a guy that came in and said, ‘My wife’s in the mall, can we hurry? Do you have a bag that’s more discreet?’ I said, no, but I can gift wrap it for you and he said “Oh my God, you saved my life.” The mild weather this week has been a boon for shoppers. Clear roads and no snow has paved the way to smoother shopping.

Denise, up from Toronto to visit family, her 2023 Christmas shopping was done. Sunday’s trip to Station Mall was about stocking up on liquor and her husband was taking care of that task. “We come up every Christmas and visit my 92-year-old Mom,” says Denise. “Last year, there was a major storm, took almost two days to get here from Toronto, which was crazy.”

If you find yourself scrambling on the final shopping days before Christmas, and want to wrap it up and relax, Carey Lynn at Roots offers her best advice.

“Come in earlier,” she says, “when we have the big sales, like Black Friday, customer appreciation, that’s when we have lots of stock in. Less pressure!


  • Ron Jokelainen

    Ron has returned to writing and reporting after 27 years with Ontario Lottery & Gaming. He began as a staff writer with OLG in 1994 before moving to Sports Marketing in 1997. He retired as a Senior sports analyst in 2021. Prior to OLG, Ron worked in radio and print journalism in the Sault and Simcoe. Folks may remember Ron "Williams" with CFYN-CHAS in the early 90s A graduate of Windsor's St. Clair College Journalism program, Ron lists drumming, gardening and walking among his favourite hobbies.

One thought on “Last-minute shopping: finding grace under pressure

  1. Christmas is far too commercialized and far too much about material things “what did you get”? The true meaning of Christmas was lost, long ago. It needs to come back.

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