Last Minute Shoppers Race for the Perfect Gift

T'was the day before Christmas, and all through the mall, late shoppers were stirring and retailers loving them all.

Local malls filled up with last minute procrastinators Tuesday morning, and with a six o'clock deadline a few were feeling the pressure. "They're frantic, they don't know what to buy," exclaimed one woman.

Those lucky enough to finish early, stepped out for more sales. "All my shopping is done," said Pete McGee. "I'm just walking around, seeing what I can see. I may have forgotten something I need."

The last minute crowds may have been bad news for shoppers, but retailers are depending on them to boost fledgling holiday sales. Analysts say cautious consumers looking for bargains have caused retailers to lose money this season. And with stores expecting to earn 50% of their holiday profit these last few days, procrastinators will determine whether the retail sector fails or succeeds.

"It's definitely picked up the last week," assures Tom Riley, manager of Sears in Tyler. "Yes, it was very so-so at the beginning. We had a great Thanksgiving period, a little bit of a lull, but last week has been very good."

Consumer experts predict the retail sector will see earnings up only 2 to 4 percent over last years, that's far below what they initially predicted.