MANATEE -- During the final shopping day before Christmas, customers clogged the streets and stores searching for last-minute gifts.
Buoyed by increasing consumer confidence in the economy, the National Retail Federation predicted that holiday sales this holiday season would be up 4.1 percent nationwide, to $586.1 billion.
Local merchants seemed to agree.
"Yesterday, we were slammed," reported Terri Liss, a partner at Rusty Crickett's Gifts & Clothing Boutique, 615 15th St. W., Bradenton.
"This year is a lot better than last year," she said. "We weren't sure what effect the election would have; they're not buying big items, but they're spending."
Many of the holiday procrastinators were men, searching for gifts for their favorite women, Liss said.
"I think men are overwhelmed, they don't know what to get," she added, recommending that next year, women might want to provide a personal "wish list" to help guide the befuddled toward something nice.
Jessica Jordan, 34, of Bradenton, was a reluctant shopper with her family at Bradenton's Best Buy, 4210
14th St. W.
She was looking for such things as a Pandora bracelet and electronic items. One special item she sought was available only at a store in Brandon, an hour or more away.
Asked whether Monday's outing might be an abbreviated shopping trip, Jordan replied she hoped so because, "I don't like to do it at all."
That also explained, she said, why she was among the frenetic last-minute shoppers.
Her son, Tanner Jordan, 13, said he had not done any shopping so far this year because he erroneously "didn't think it was important enough to get other people" gifts. To rectify the situation, he was attempting to do all his shopping in a single day, he said.
Meanwhile, after Christmas, the stores are expected to again be clogged with those returning items they received.
When it comes to a company's holiday return policy, about 83.1 percent of respondents in a survey said their return policies would remain unchanged over last year, according to the retail federation.
About 10.2 percent of respondents said they would loosen their policies to help ease the process for gift givers and recipients, the federation said.
Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter @sarawrites.com.