Down to the wire
Shoppers fill baskets as days count down

LAWRENCEVILLE - Some people cruise through their Christmas shopping list, presenting the perfect gift to its recipient while taking note of that person's frayed socks for next year's buying.

Others buy gifts here and there all year long and store them under the bed, excavating them the day after Thanksgiving for Christmastime wrapping.

For the rest of us, Gwinnett County's three malls are offering extended hours today, Sunday and on Christmas Eve for those last-minute buys.

According to the National Retail Federation, foot traffic was up 4.8 percent from 2006 in retail stores the weekend after Thanksgiving. Known as the Black Friday Weekend, those three shopping days can make or break a store's bottom line for the year.

Local retail store managers and shoppers both said that heavy shopping days have been hit or miss this month.

A busy work schedule kept Jack and Karen Norris of Loganville from completing their shopping list until Friday, the couple said.

"I never shop the day after Thanksgiving," she said. "There's no sale worth getting up that early for."

But with Discover Mills Mall only a 20-minute drive from home, the Norrises planned to complete all their shopping in one day at one location.

With Friday being the first day of Gwinnett County Schools' Christmas break, substitute teacher Crystal Remelius finally had a free day to buy for friends and family.

"I spent about the same amount of money this year as last," she said Friday at Discover Mills.

While shoppers wandered in and out of many mall stores, customers were lined up four and five deep at the Books-A-Million cash registers in Discover Mills.

"Sales are up this year," said Assistant Manager Richard Haynes. "We were surprised. I think books and CDs are always big items. With book clubs popping up and the Harry Potter movies, reading seems to be coming back in style again for kids. The talk show hosts have their political books coming out now, too."

Patricia Pratt of Lilburn bought "The Hobbit" for her grandson.

"He needs it for a book report," she said, as Haynes rang up her order.

A few miles down the road, some retailers at Gwinnett Place Mall were feeling a sluggish Christmas season upon them.

"It's been slower than last year, especially the day after Thanksgiving," said Layla Tehrani, assistant manager of Bath and Body Works.

SideBar: Mall hours

All three Gwinnett County malls will be closed Christmas Day.

Gwinnett Place Mall

Today 8 a.m. - 11 p.m.

Sunday 9 a.m. - 10 p.m.

Monday 8 a.m. - 6 p.m.

Discover Mills

Today 10 a.m. - 10 p.m.

Sunday noon - 7 p.m.

Monday 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.

Mall of Georgia

Today 8 a.m. - 10 p.m.

Sunday 8 a.m. - 8 p.m.

Monday 8 a.m. - 6 p.m.