For some, the final days leading up to Christmas provide an opportunity to pick up that one final present missing from the holiday lineup.
For others, those days are the perfect time to start thinking about those perfect gifts.
“We shop this way every year. Last minute is the only way we do it,” said Catherine Mitchell, one of the many shoppers stocking up on Christmas goodies Sunday at Tanger Outlets The Walk in Atlantic City. “I love coming to Atlantic City. It’s my second home.”
With just two days to spare before the holiday, Catherine and her husband, Kevin, ventured to the resort from New York City for a one-night stay. The trip gave her the perfect opportunity to do some gambling at Showboat Casino Hotel, coupled with shopping for her grandchildren — the only family members on her shopping list.
“Once you hit that adult age, it’s a wrap. Christmas is for the kids,” she said.
“When you’re an adult in our house, you get maybe one present, if that,” Kevin Mitchell said, carrying bags of clothing for his grandchildren.
Annual last-minute shoppers rapidly making purchases hours before Christmas collided with more casual shoppers Sunday in Atlantic City. Some mentioned frustration with long lines and crowded stores, but nearly all acknowledged that those things come with the territory when you’re shopping less than 48 hours hours before the holiday.
If the Starbucks on Arctic Avenue was any indication, business was strong at the outlets Sunday. By 4 p.m., the line for a caffeine recharge was 25 people long and stretched from the counter to the door.
Jeanette Peterson, of Morrisville, Pa., took a quick look at the line and promptly returned to the street to resume her shopping.
“I didn’t need coffee that bad,” she said. “I do need to buy a couple more stocking stuffers.”
Those sentiments are exactly what officials had hoped to hear from holiday shoppers. Even before Hurricane Sandy landed in late October, the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority committed to going all out for the holidays with a $495,000 investment in decorations that can be seen throughout the resort.
Elaborate displays — one at Atlantic Avenue and Christopher Columbus Boulevard, another at Atlantic and Providence avenues — were unveiled a little more than a week ago. A tree sits at the foot of the Atlantic City Expressway, and six-foot candy canes adorn light posts. Officials hoped the decorating efforts would encourage more people to visit the city in the winter, a traditionally slow season.
The hope took on a greater importance in the aftermath of the storm, CRDA Executive Director John Palmieri has said. Atlantic City is still struggling to regain ground following the storm. Data released by the state Division of Gaming Enforcement earlier this month showed that in November the resort saw its largest monthly decline in gaming revenue in its history with a drop of 28 percent.
Starting next year, the Atlantic City Convention & Visitors Authority has plans to begin reporting more detailed nongambling data showing how much tourists are spending away from slot machines and table games. The reports are expected to include data on spending at restaurants, concerts and retail areas such as the outlets where friends Justine Tellez, of Absecon, and Mina Salvatore, of Brigantine, spent their day Sunday.
The pair split their time between shopping for themselves and picking up the last gifts on their lists for others. Salvatore opted for gift cards from Forever 21 for her sisters, while Tellez, who already was done with her Christmas shopping, couldn’t resist buying a dress from the same store for herself.
“I don’t have a lot to get. I just shop for my immediate family,” Tellez said. “I tell other people, ‘don’t get me anything because I don’t want to be shopping for a bunch of presents.’”
Mark Cooper, of Philadelphia, was yet another last-minute shopper at the outlets on Sunday. His shopping, however, was for himself and provided a break from his stay at the Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort down the street.
Cooper said he already was done with his Christmas shopping, but that’s only because he doesn’t believe in loading up on presents.
“I give presents to my nieces all year long. That way they’re surprised,” Cooper said. “Christmas is for Jesus, not for presents.”
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