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Some stores open around the clock in final push to boost holiday sales

Retailers' final dash to get shoppers' attention and holiday dollars in the countdown to Christmas has begun.

Macy's Inc. will keep nine of its stores in the Northeast region -- including the store at Walden Galleria in Cheektowaga -- open straight through 6 p.m. on Christmas Eve after opening at 7 a.m. Wednesday.

Toys R Us Inc., which opened its nearly 600 stores nationwide at 6 a.m. Tuesday, will leave them open straight for 112 hours through 10 p.m. Saturday.

While retailers started their promotions earlier than ever this holiday season and pulled out all stops to lure shoppers on Black Friday -- the day after Thanksgiving that marked the season's official start -- winning sales in the last week before Christmas is crucial.

While Black Friday is the biggest shopping day of the season, five of the period's top 10 sales and foot traffic days are expected to occur between Dec. 18 and Dec. 24, with one-third of all holiday sales expected to be posted this week, according to mall-traffic tracker ShopperTrak.

Last weekend and the ensuing days "are absolutely critical for retailers to convert sales," said Ken Perkins of the research firm Retail Metrics, adding that the firm's mall visits last week found heavier traffic and fuller parking lots but with conversion "on the light side."

There are also concerns that retailers' efforts to drive traffic and sales may come at the expense of profit. For instance, Best Buy Co. last week reported disappointing quarterly profit after a miss in margins.

This week will be even more significant for retailers this year with Hanukkah starting this week instead of Dec. 1 last year, ShopperTrak said, adding that retail sales also will benefit from an extra shopping day with Christmas falling on Sunday instead of on Saturday last year.

"There is a lot of procrastination," said Bill Martin, founder of ShopperTrak, in an interview, adding he only just started holiday shopping himself. "There's still a lot of [shopping] energy left in the system."