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Last-minute gift buyers take to mall

Christmas Eve rush expected till doors close

By Gavin Lesnick

This article was published December 24, 2013 at 11:14 a.m.

dianne-kennedy-tries-to-calm-her-1-year-old-son-peter-for-a-photo-with-santa-before-commencing-last-minute-christmas-shopping-tuesday-at-park-plaza-mall

Dianne Kennedy tries to calm her 1-year-old son, Peter, for a photo with Santa before commencing last-minute Christmas shopping Tuesday at Park Plaza Mall.

Dianne Kennedy had a good reason for waiting until the final day to get her Christmas shopping done, but that didn't make the task any less daunting.

The 26-year-old law student didn't get through with her finals until last week, delaying much of her holiday gift search until Christmas Eve.

Kennedy and her 1-year-old son, Peter, got to Park Plaza Mall early to get a photo with Santa and then to start finding presents. So who was left for to shop for?

"Mostly everyone," Kennedy said with a laugh. "We'll probably get it done. If not, there's always other Christmases."

At 10 a.m., when Kennedy and hundreds of other shoppers were taking to the mall's three levels of stores, just eight hours remained until the literal last minute, at least as far as Park Plaza was concerned. The Little Rock mall will close at 6 p.m., though officials there expect a steady stream of shoppers right until the doors are locked.

"Most definitely," said Alicia Easley, a spokesman for the mall, noting it may even be "worse than usual" because of bad weather over the weekend and earlier this month. "But we always have a lot of last-minute shoppers on Christmas Eve."

At the Crown Shop on the third floor, last-minute gift buyers perused Christmas-themed snacks, ornaments and wrapping paper.

Debbie Drew, manager of that store, said her team was readying for a repeat of Monday, which was "crazy." The Hallmark Keepsake ornaments are popular, she said, warning some will be sold out before the end of the day.

"We had a lady come in yesterday wanting something with a hippopotamus," Drew said, taking a quick break from setting up a display in the front of the store. "Thank god I had a little hippopotamus ornament in a tutu for her. She was pleased as punch."

Aaron Mann, 13, went to the Crown Shop with his grandmother as he worked to find two gifts for his mother: one from him, one for his brother to give.

He said the process was actually a little smoother than he anticipated. Plenty of shoppers were milling about, but not enough to cause problems.

"It's not as bad as I thought it was going to be," Mann said. "Yesterday we drove by and it seemed like it was backed up to the highway trying to get in here."

One spot drew a long line as soon as it opened: More than 30 parents and children were in line to see Santa a short time after he arrived.

Elsewhere in the mall, Keith Holland of Bigelow was wrapping up his shopping alongside his two grandchildren, 5-year-old Justin and 7-year-old Jessie.

And who all were they buying for, a reporter asked.

"Oh, just a few different folks," Holland began.

"Grandma!" Justin interjected.

Holland chuckled and drew his grandson to his side.

"Yeah, she is the main one, isn't she?" he said.

The 57-year-old Holland said he actually likes waiting until the last minute because the crowds aren't as bad as earlier in the month. And, he said, he doesn't worry about coming up short by the time businesses close.

"Nah," Holland said. "We'll always find something."

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