Christmas-shopping procrastinators on the lookout for last-minute deals flocked to retailers across Fresno on Saturday, one of the final and biggest shopping days leading up to the holidays.
But with the clock ticking down to Christmas, fewer people were in a frenzy to snatch up gifts than just weeks earlier, when patrons lined up for hours outside big-box stores like Target and Toys R Us for Black Friday doorbusters.
At Fig Garden Village, finding a parking space was easy for shoppers -- and for families looking to get free horse-drawn carriage rides around the parking lot, a special holiday event at the northwest Fresno shopping center. Crowds were thicker at Fashion Fair mall, but not as congested as weeks earlier.
"(Christmas weekend) definitely rivals Black Friday, but Black Friday truly is the busiest," said Kelly Tallant-Martin, Fashion Fair marketing manager.
Many shoppers said they got their big purchases out of the way when stores slashed hundreds of dollars off tech items like TVs and tablets in November.
Rosalinda Gonzales, 50, said her family spent $500 total for two flat-screen TVs and two Blu-ray players at Walmart on Black Friday.
Lucy, who works at a store in Fashion Fair and declined to give her last name, said "last year was much busier" during the days before Christmas. She said many thrifty people -- including herself -- are closing their wallets earlier this year to avoid splurging on pricey gifts.
"In the past, I bought tons of gifts," she said. "But now, I'm not going to go in debt to please people. Really, what Christmas is about is family and spending time together."
Others, like 25-year-old Desirea Garcia, said they try to avoid the crowds altogether. But Garcia and her husband did decide to bring their two young daughters to see Santa at Fashion Fair on Saturday, waiting for more than an hour before they finally got to the front of the line.
While the crowds looked thinner than a few weeks ago, there were still throngs of people grabbing deals on cell phones, clothes and other items. Retailers including Macy's and JCPenney had deals on certain items while teen clothing store Hollister offered a 50%-off sale store-wide.
Robert Guerrero, a 37-year-old maintenance mechanic, drove up to Fresno on Saturday from Lemoore to buy presents for his son and wife. He didn't grab many deals, but said he was mostly concerned about getting all his shopping finished before the holidays.
"I think it's in a man's DNA to wait until the last minute," he said.
Many shoppers are opting for online trading, said Tracy Kashian, public relations manager for River Park shopping center in northeast Fresno, adding, "but I think the foot traffic is picking back up again." She said even more shoppers will come out on Monday and Tuesday, because the days just before Christmas typically are the busiest.
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