Last-minute shoppers bring relief to retailers

UNDATED (AP) -- Last-minute shoppers are expected to give the nation's retailers the late surge they need to help them meet modest sales goals.

In fact, Christmas Eve is expected to end up being a bigger shopping day than in past years because many employers gave workers the day off, with the holiday falling on Tuesday.

One woman shopping at an Indianapolis mall this morning said she was "trying to get some deals, seeing what they got out." She says, "The sales are better later on."

Consumers jammed stores at the start of the season in search of discounts, but a challenging economy prompted others to hold out until the end for bigger discounts.

A spokeswoman at Taubman Centers, which operates 24 malls in 11 states, says the "entire weekend" was strong, and that malls today were busy from the time they opened.

She says malls are looking to the week ahead when gift cards are redeemed.

A co-founder of ShopperTrak, which tracks total sales at more than 50,000 retail outlets, estimates that holiday sales will meet its forecast of a 3.6 percent gain.

A clearer picture of how the holiday season fared won't be known until as late as January 10th, when the nation's retailers report their final December same-store sales figures.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)