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By Carolyn Bigda, Chicago Tribune (TNS)

With Christmas just a few days away, , you may be rushing to finish your shopping — or just getting started on your list.

According to market research firm NPD Group, 18 percent of consumers wouldn’t start their shopping until the last week before the holiday and another 21 percent were only half done buying gifts in early December.

With so much shopping left to do in such a short amount of time, snagging a deal will require some creativity.

“Are the deals going to be as plentiful as they were just a few weeks ago?” said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst at NPD. “Yes and no. There will be plenty of deals, but the longer you wait the less likely you are to get the sizes and styles you want.”

With that in mind, retail pros suggest that procrastinators use these shopping strategies:

––Stay flexible. This holiday season, there is not a must-have gift that only a few retailers have for sale.

“Basically, stores all have the same items,” Cohen said.

But this late in the shopping season, your selection will be more limited. “The wireless headset you want might not be available in black, but it will be in blue,” he said. To check off everything on your shopping list, be flexible.

––Check for new deals daily. Cohen also noted that given the lack of new or must-have products, retailers are likely to continue running promotions up until Christmas.

“No retailer wants to risk having you shop somewhere else,” he said. “Unless stores across the board are doing so great in terms of sales, which is not happening, you’re going to continue to see deals.”

But promotions could vary from day to day. If an item you want isn’t on sale, it may pay to wait a day or two to see if a discount is offered.

“More than in past years, we’re seeing retailers change their promotions,” said Casey Runyan, managing editor at Brad’s Deals, which scours the Web for store offers. “They’re throwing up a bigger percent-off code one day or dropping the minimum spend for free shipping another day.”

––Opt for in-store pickup. If you’re shopping online, keep in mind that, generally, free shipping was available only on orders made by Dec. 18, if not earlier.

If you missed the deadline, check to see if in-store pickup is available. With this feature, you shop online but pick up your item in store free and often on the day of purchase.

“At this point, pretty much every major retailer offers some type of in-store pickup option,” Runyan said. But, she cautioned, it might not be available for all products.

––Go for gift cards. If you can’t find the right size or color, or your gift won’t be shipped in time, consider giving a gift card instead.

This year, many stores and restaurants are offering promotions on gift cards — say, throwing in an extra $20 when you buy a $100 gift card — more so than in previous years, said Benjamin Glaser, features editor at DealNews, which tracks store promotions.

To find a list of such offers, go to www.dealnews.com (click on “All Deals,” then “Gift Cards”).

Or head to your local gas station. Runyan says she has found that local gas stations tend to offer big discounts on gift cards.

A gift card may seem impersonal, but it’s often better than the alternative.

Cohen said” “Procrastinators are out there grabbing what everyone else is grabbing, thinking it must be good. It usually makes for some interesting presents wrapped under the tree.”

ABOUT THE WRITER

Carolyn Bigda writes Getting Started for the Chicago Tribune. yourmoney@tribune.com.

©2015 Chicago Tribune. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Photo: William Murphy via Flickr

 

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