BELLINGHAM - Even with a few extra shopping days tossed in this holiday season, plenty of last-minute shoppers were out on Christmas Eve looking for gifts.
While some may have felt stressed as the Christmas deadline loomed, the overall mood appeared fairly calm in the morning and early afternoon in the downtown and Fairhaven shopping districts.
"People don't seem as harried as previous years; today we've had a lot more browsers who seem in the mood to buy gifts rather than feeling like they have to buy something (just to check off the shopping list)," said Village Books co-owner Chuck Robinson, who was on the floor answering questions for customers on Monday, Dec. 24.
The steady, but calm, stream of shoppers at the bookstore was in contrast to a very busy weekend. Robinson estimates that Saturday, Dec. 22, was the busiest day of the year in terms of sales and may have been one of the busiest ever in the store's 32-year history. Robinson's nearby business Paper Dreams also experienced strong sales through the weekend.
Last weekend was also busy at the Fairhaven Toy Garden and that carried over into Monday morning, when co-owner Robin Bigelow opened the front door.
"We had four or five groups of people waiting when I opened the door, and it's been busy ever since," said Bigelow, who was operating the cash register around noon.
One of the shoppers in the toy store was Fairhaven resident Harold Niven, who was picking up a few final items for children. He actually started his Christmas shopping early but remembered he had a few gifts left to find.
"It's easy for me because I live about three blocks away," Niven said. "Plus it's such a great store. It's the only place where I can find (blow) bubbles that work."
Many of the last-minute shoppers were those who were arriving in Bellingham from out of town, visiting family, said Erin Schwindt, an employee at Fairhaven Toy Garden.
"It's always busy in the morning (of Christmas Eve) but starts to slow down in the afternoon," she said.
Once again, it was men doing the bulk of the last-minute shopping. At Greenhouse, a home décor store in downtown Bellingham, a line of about eight shoppers - all men - waited patiently at the main cash register.
"We do have a higher proportion of gentlemen shopping at this time of year," said Greenhouse co-owner Chris Foss with a laugh. "But I would agree that shoppers seem less stressed and are enjoying themselves more. I think that extra weekend (between Thanksgiving and Christmas) this year helped."
Pam Went, a board member of the Whatcom Humane Society, was on hand to help the last-minute shoppers wrap presents at Fairhaven Toy Garden, with donations going toward construction of the society's new shelter that's being built in the Irongate area.
"Having dads out at the last minute is great for us, because they usually want the gift-wrapping (services)," Went said, adding that overall it's been a good fundraiser. "This place (Fairhaven Toy Garden) is such a destination place for shoppers, I've been meeting people from all over."
Even with many of the shops closing early on Christmas Eve, retailers won't get much of a rest. Next up are the after-Christmas sales, which can be just as hectic, but it's also an enjoyable time as people make exchanges and return with gift certificates.
"We have plenty of sore feet, but we'll be back at this at 8 a.m. on Wednesday," Foss said.
Reach DAVE GALLAGHER at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 715-2269. Visit his business blog online at blogs.bellinghamherald.com/business or get updates on Twitter at twitter.com/BhamHeraldBiz.