UNIVERSITY PARK -- A conga line of cars ringed the parking lot at University Town Center Monday driven by shoppers making their way to last-minute holiday gifts.
Yuletide carols jingled from speakers, reminding shoppers -- toiling in the 85-degree heat, no less -- that Christmas was just two days away.
"Don't you wonder where the music comes from?" a young mother asked her two sons as they walked into Bed, Bath and Beyond.
Trevor States was perusing a shelf stocked tight with Yankee Candles.
"I still have to buy for my significant other," he said smiling.
Some bubble bath? A candle? He didn't know.
States started all his Christmas shopping that morning. He planned to hit Costco and BJ's later on for toys and gift cards for a niece and nephew.
At Target, Simon Price, 20, and Kyle Burgy, 23, were surveying a pair of University of South Florida yoga pants for a sister and a girlfriend. They weren't sure on size.
"We usually start a couple days beforehand, but we're a little late this year," Burgy said.
"I have to work tomorrow, so this is my only day," Price said.
Target's dollar section was in disarray and the gift wrap aisle well picked over.
Linda Flenniken's shopping cart held a fun-size bag of Twix, iTunes and Xbox gift cards and polka-dotted socks.
"Stocking stuffers," she said.
Flenniken, 55, started shopping in September. Now she's just tying loose ends.
Across University Parkway, Nordstrom Rack was buzzing with lunch-time shoppers.
General manager Karina Attar-McDonald said the Kate Spade and Michael Kors handbags have been the hottest-selling items this year.
The store is bracing for a Christmas Eve rush.
"There will be a lot of traffic tomorrow," she said.
Sabrina Rocco, East Manatee reporter, can be reached at (941) 745-7024. Follow @sabrinarocco on Twitter.