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Waco stores generally well-stocked on busy last weekend before Christmas
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Waco stores generally well-stocked on busy last weekend before Christmas

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The Grinch this Christmas was supposed to be supply chain issues, as they are euphemistically called, meaning shipping containers are packed like sardines off the West Coast, truckers are cranky and Santa’s running late.

The weekend before the holiday arrived in Waco bearing drizzly, humid weather, not necessarily conducive to holiday cheer. But the question of how supplies are holding out produced mostly positive responses Saturday.

At Target, toy availability was hit-and-miss. Several Lego-branded items were MIA, their absence creating gaps on shelves, though staffers busily maneuvered carts piled high with reinforcements. Also scarce were My Look beauty kits for children, as well as a ceramic tea set, ear buds and foot spa carrying the FAO Schwarz brand.

Never fear, store director Christina Ferber said. Guest inquiries about product availability have been duly noted.

“We will have at least one truck delivery of toys each day between now and Christmas, sometimes two,” said Ferber, who added shoppers are eager to celebrate the holidays, as evidenced by a year-over-year uptick in traffic.

Hot items keeping stockers hopping include Squishamals, WowWee Fairy Finders and “PAW Patrol”-themed merchandise, Ferber said.

While at Target midmorning Saturday, shopper Melanie Spark, a music teacher at Alta Vista Elementary School, passed along a scouting report.

“The Walmart on Sun Valley had a lot of clothing gone,” Spark said, noting girls’ bottoms were plentiful, but girls’ tops were in short supply.

The National Retail Federation on Tuesday predicted more than 148 million consumers would go shopping on the last Saturday before Christmas, either online or in-store. That number lags behind last year’s prediction that 150 million people would hit real or virtual stores on what the federation labels “Super Saturday.” The organization said shoppers began hitting stores earlier this year.

“Retailers began preparations for the holiday season months in advance, offering seasonal inventory early and taking preventative measures to circumvent supply chain challenges exacerbated by the pandemic,” President and CEO Matthew Shay said in a press release, referencing National Retail Federation survey results. “Consumers have responded with a growing eagerness to kick off the holiday shopping season early, and they expect to carry that momentum through the last few weeks of the year.”

That survey, conducted with Prosper Insights & Analytics, showed 42% of those questioned intended to wrap up shopping before Saturday.

“This figure is up from 40 percent a year ago and 30 percent in 2012 when NRF first asked this question,” the press release says.

Retailers’ efforts to mitigate supply chain slowdowns apparently are working, since 71% of holiday shoppers reported they have been able to find the items they are looking for most or all the time, according to the press release.

The National Retail Federation in late October projected holiday spending this year would total between $843 billion and $859 billion, a range of 8.5% to 10.5% more than last year. That spending now appears on track to hit 11.5% growth, according to last week’s update.

John Phillips, who manages the James Avery Artisan Jewelry store in Central Texas Marketplace, predicted 1,500 customers, if not more, would visit the shop Saturday to purchase charms, anklets and charm bracelets.

“We’re selling pretty much everything, but charms definitely are the biggest thing. They are the staple of this store,” Phillips said. “We’re able to get merchandise we need. If it’s not in the store, we can get it in a couple of days from Kerrville, where our main office is located. Stocking and restocking is a daily thing. As soon as we get stock in, half is put on display.”

Christmas-themed charms are selling well, as expected, but surprisingly charms honoring moms are also doing well this holiday season, Phillips said.

Salesperson Randell Kyle reported steady crowds this year at HobbyTown on West Waco Drive. He said remote-controlled cars are lapping the field in popularity, that HobbyTown has sold 100 to 150 since early November. The rolling diversions fetch $150 to $2,000 apiece, Kyle said.

Kyle said sales this season are running neck-and-neck with those last year. He said customers last year spent more time home alone, or with others, enjoying puzzles, science kits, model sets and more.

“We’ve got all our supplies,” Kyle said, reporting no shortages.

The Gift Horse owner Cassie Rowntree said she began preparing for a busy 2021 holiday shopping season more than a year ago. The retailer of upscale merchandise from the Brighton and Mark Roberts lines, among others, said it was no accident she received 100% of her holiday order by August, having sent off her requests in November and December of 2020.

“I’ve already placed three orders for Christmas 2022,” said Rowntree, whose cozy shop is located in Ridgewood Village, near North Valley Mills Drive and Cobbs Drive. She described customer response this holiday season as “amazing,” in part because the inventory she pictured became reality.

“It got here in August, before the backup,” Rowntree said.

A visit to Central Texas Marketplace on Saturday revealed surging crowds near lunchtime, with lines forming at Ross’ registers, most baskets filled with clothing. Customers could be heard receiving gift-buying instructions and comparing notes with friends or family via cellphone.

Marshalls and Bath & Body Works also teemed with activity. Kohl’s had a steady crowd, one shopper wearing a new China Spring state championship shirt he bought at Jerry Jones’ AT&T Stadium following the Cougars’ win Friday.

On Saturday, Aaron Burnett was on a mission, hoping to find a gliding rocking chair for his grandmother, and maybe one for himself.

He said he struck out at Home Depot, though his online search had indicated the chair he coveted was there. Likewise, Kohl’s proved a wasted trip.

Burnett vowed to continue his search elsewhere.

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