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If you ‘like it crazy,’ this is the time to shop

Amy Blaszczak is a procrastinator. She’ll tell you so herself.

She has been known to hit the malls as late as Christmas Eve to finish her shopping but this year, she got done “early.” She started her shopping at Walden Galleria on Saturday and finished at Boulevard Mall on Sunday.

“The malls were packed,” Blaszczak said. “It was like hand-to-hand combat.”

Stores were thronged with shoppers like Blaszczak this weekend, finishing up their Christmas lists and looking for last-minute deals. The final weekend before Christmas is the second-busiest of the season, behind only Black Friday weekend, according to retail analytics firm Shoppertrak. That has held steady, even as online shopping eclipses brick-and-mortar retail.

Retailers kicked off the holiday shopping season earlier than ever. Amazon offered Black Friday deals during the summer and Kmart aired its first Christmas commercial during the first week of September. Still, more than 10 percent of consumers admitted that they will wait until Dec. 23 to finish their Christmas shopping, according to a survey by the National Retail Federation.

The majority of shoppers said they wait until the last minute because they don’t know what to buy, the survey showed. But a full 22 percent said they hold off because they’re waiting for the best deals.

Store associates said the crowds have been robust but well-behaved.

“Everybody has been great,” said Rene Antoine, a seasonal employee at the Made in America Store.

Workers said the hustle and bustle makes things feel more festive.

“You know, the time goes by so much faster when you’re busy because you’re talking to everyone,” said Jen Hacker, working at Zumiez in Boulevard Mall. “I like it crazy.”

The only person on David Hartley’s shopping list was his wife. She finished all the shopping for the rest of his family, so it’s his turn to make sure she gets her share.

He has been listening intently for gift clues all year, keeping a list on his smartphone. But just in case, he brought along daughter Alyssa, 13, to make sure he didn’t make any dumb decisions.

“I picked up a sweater, and she said, ‘She doesn’t wear that, Dad,’ so I put it right back down,” said Hartley, of Amherst. “I know the rules: happy wife, happy life.”

Cristin Tyler timed her trip to the mall Sunday to coincide with the Buffalo Bills game.

“I did it purposely because I went to Galleria yesterday and I was miserable,” the Town of Tonawanda resident said. “I figured I’d wait until the game was on so the crowds would be a little chilled out.”

Tyler started shopping right after Thanksgiving and did most of it online. But there were certain items, such as electronics, that she wanted to buy in person so she could test them and make sure they were working right. She was lugging a heavy hoverboard through Boulevard Mall. She said that it’s much more convenient to shop online and have things delivered.

But as Christmas approaches, she is getting nervous that her orders may not arrive in time for the big day.

“I do have some gifts outstanding,” Tyler said. “So I will probably go out and get a secondary gift as a backup.”

For the first time in history, online shopping has surpassed brick-and-mortar retail. During Black Friday weekend, 103 million people shopped online. That’s more than the 102 million who visited stores during the same time frame, according to the National Retail Federation.

But stores have come to expect last-minute shoppers, doing their best to cater to them and capture every last consumer dollar. Kohl’s stores, for example, opened at 7 a.m. Thursday and will remain open for 179 hours straight, until 6 p.m. on Christmas Eve.