By Michael Davis
Having waited until the week before Christmas to get some last-minute shopping done, McDonough resident Kara Jobson and her daughter Kyanna were weaving their way around the photo aisle at Wal-Mart Friday afternoon.
With one week to go, Jobson, 29, and more shopping left to do, she has already spent more many this year on gifts than she did last year, she said and is now trying to avoid the evening crowds to get it done.
"I normally came in at night because I thought it would be better but it doesn't matter when you come, it's crowded," she said as 2-year-old Kayanna pulls a Barbie camera off a display.
While some retail industry analysts report mixed holiday sales throughout the nation, sales locally have been up over last year, retailers report.
"We're seeing an upward trend in traffic and in sales in our tenant stores," said Tanger Outlet Mall Assistant General Manager Holly Duffey.
For the weekend after Thanksgiving, typically the busiest shopping weekend of the year, sales at the 60-store shopping center in Locust Grove were up 20 percent over the same period in 2003, she said.
As the last week of the holiday shopping season approaches, the mall is expecting an up-tick in sales as last-minute shoppers look for their final gifts and even robust after-holiday traffic as popular gift cards are redeemed.
"We're expecting more of an upward trend next week," she said.
But sales across the nation have been luke warm despite deep discounts, the Associated Press reports.
Wal-Mart stores, the nation's largest discount retailer, reported last weekend winter merchandise sales were below expectations and general merchandise outpaced food sales.
But locally, Norris Clark, the photo center manager at the McDonough Wal-Mart location, said while traffic has been on par this year with last, some of the more expensive items are boosting receipts.
"We get more per ring than we did last year," he said, pointing to $300 -400 digital cameras and other increasingly popular electronics.
At Morrow's Southlake Mall, spokeswoman Andrea Brinkman said traffic has been steady and on the upswing heading toward Christmas.
While it's typical for evenings to see more traffic, "I can tell this week, even during the day, the mall is really busy," she said. Brinkman could not provide specific sales figures, but estimated sales on a par with last year.
And despite chilling temperatures at the out-door Tanger earlier in the week, Duffey said shoppers are still coming to the mall.
"Even though it's really cold outside, the stores are warm and weather does not seem to be a deterrent," she said.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.