12/16/05 — Shoppers have time to find the perfect gift

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Shoppers have time to find the perfect gift

By News-Argus Staff
Published in News on December 16, 2005 1:51 PM

If you haven't bought an iPod or an Xbox 360, start making a list and checking it twice for alternatives. Local businesses say Christmas shopping is fast and furious already and could make finding that perfect gift a little harder as the shopping days tick down to 0.

One of the most-wanted items is the new gaming system.

"People are looking for the Xbox 360, but nobody can find it in town anywhere," said Betsy Brown, electronics manager at Wal-Mart. "It just came out Nov. 22. We're expecting a shipment before Christmas as well as everyone else in town. We just don't know when."

Playstation 2 is also a big seller, and Ms. Brown said she has managed to keep a supply of that and its portable version, PSP, stocked.

The iPod, though, is another matter. Between the commercials promoting the device and people of all ages hoping to own one, it has proven to be a hot seller this year.

Winston Fowlkes, a sales associate at Radio Shack in Berkeley Mall, said he has hardly been able to keep iPods on the shelf.

"We haven't had any in stock for a couple of weeks," he said. "We have to special order them."

The same holds true at f.y.e. in the mall.

"Every time we get iPods, we sell them out," assistant manager Kim Robinson said. " If we got them tomorrow, we would sell them out tomorrow."

So, if you see one, don't wait for a better price, the retailers warn.

"I'm telling people if they can find it anywhere, don't even turn around and walk away two steps," Ms. Brown said. "If they can find it anywhere, buy it."

She said Wal-Mart receives calls every day asking if any have come in. The process is necessary, she said, because she can't create a waiting list.

It's very hard to tell someone, "No, we don't have it and we don't know when we're going to get it," Ms. Brown said.

Even more challenging is having customers request a specific item, such as the iPod, she said. If it were an item like an MP3 player, for example, there is a little more leeway to find something comparable.

If you can wait, after Christmas might be the best time to find that elusive electronic marvel.

"That's what happened with Playstation last year," she said. "We would get in 60 at a time, and they'd be all gone by that evening." Now, a year later, a plentiful supply is on the shelves.

At Radio Shack, popular items include cell phones, digital cameras and Sirius satellite radio.

A starter kit for Sirius for the car runs $100, Fowlkes said. The independent boombox is an additional $80.

And for those who want to remember Christmas in pictures, there is always the digital camera as a choice for under the tree.

As technology has advanced, the prices for digital cameras have dropped anywhere from $100 to $600, making them more affordable, Fowlkes said.

Staples also carries electronic items, although Jonathan Ashworth, operations employee, said there was not any one item that was a standout this year.

"Anything from laptops to PDAs has been the biggest - we stock up on everything," he said. "Everybody likes everything; that's what it seems like."

At f.y.e., Robinson said the DVDs on most men's lists include "Fantastic Four," "Mr. & Mrs. Smith" and any "Family Guy" box sets.

If finding the most creative gift and not the most-sought-after is what is slowing down your Christmas shopping, there are plenty of stores with unusual items ready for wrapping.

Business seems slower this season, but with a little more than a week left before Christmas, Patsy Joyner of Ruffles and Bows in Mount Olive is keeping her store stocked.

She said most of the women who come in looking for Christmas presents head straight for something that has fur on it, which could be a jacket, sweater, cape or poncho.

Down the street, Brenda Coker at Coker Candles and Gifts says her second Christmas of offering creative gifts has already made her a stop for those looking for the unusual this holiday season.

"I have a lot of things people can't find anywhere else," she said.

Ms. Coker's food-shaped candles are especially big sellers this time of year as are the perennial favorite, Yankee Candles, and the accessories that go along with them.

She ordered 36 jar candle warmers last year that "went like hotcakes," she said, and she expects this year will be no different.

At Roses on Breazeale Avenue, decorative items and apparel are going fast, manager Steve Whitfield said. "A lot of people are buying clothes," he said. "So much is going out, it's got to be for gifts."

Dressier items and Christmas apparel are doing especially well, he said.

Toy sales have also picked up, with traditional items being the most popular - dolls for the girls, electronics for the boys. For the older children on the list, stereos, TVs and VCRs continue to be popular, as are fragrances for both men and women.

Christmas decorations always seem to do well, he said.

"We're wiped out on a lot of Christmas decorations," he said. "Garlands are doing extremely well this year. Red bows are the hottest seller."

Whitfield said the store prepares for Christmas.

"We ordered more this year, and it seems we sell a red bow to everybody," he said.

And he knows there is more selling to be done before Dec. 25 rolls around.

"And this is going to be another good year," he said. "I think people will keep spending this year right on up to the wire."

If you are looking for a gift your recipient is unlikely to have seen anywhere else, you might not have to go any farther than O'Berry Center.

Berry Towne Gifts started 15 years ago as a tiny balloon shop, but has added a variety of items since then, said Jocelyn Jackson, a vocational trainer at the center.

O'Berry has its own greenhouse, as well as vocational areas where residents create and print notepads and can personalize them. Berry Towne features some items, particularly floral arrangements, poinsettias and potted plants. There are also wreaths and bows that are pre-made or can be customized.

Among the more popular items are an assortment of "sweet treats" and stationery, all made by residents at the center.

"We've gone to making soaps and lotions and doing pottery," said Joyce Smith, vocational trainer.

In addition to individual soaps, there are also gift packages, Ms. Jackson said. One of the most popular is the "home soap" set, featuring a coffee kitchen soap, garden soap and mechanic soap, so named because they remove the set-in scent that comes from working in those areas, she said.

A new pottery program at the center is producing other items such as vases and ornaments, she said.

"We have our own wheels and a kiln, and clients here do the work themselves," she said.

The store is open to the public weekdays from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. The last day to shop before Christmas will be Thursday, Dec. 22.