KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — The rush ahead of the Christmas week snowstorm is not just confined to the groceries and essentials at the store. Shoppers still checking off their Christmas lists were in the same boat.

When asked what’s left on their list, answers varied shopper by shopper.

“Pretty much everything,” said Riley Schomaker said. “I got my fiancée covered, but I still got to get (my mom’s) stuff when she’s not with me.”

Riley’s mother, Shelby Pierce, simply said, “Stocking stuffers, primarily.”

Less time is on the ticking clock for shoppers to get their gifts, now that the region is expecting more than just a white Christmas starting Thursday.

“It’s a little scary … considering that everything has to be moved up a couple days and make sure you are prepared, not only for the big day, but just in case the weather is bad,” Pierce said.

“Not only groceries, but the first thing I did today was get gas. Because my car better not freeze,” Shoemaker quipped.

The mother-daughter duo mostly shop local, but they say they needed more patience for their online purchases through big box stores and online retailers.

“They said it could take a couple of weeks, but I know a few of my friends that have done a lot of Amazon shopping. They had to get super ahead of time because it’s super backed up,” Shoemaker said.

This holiday season was a mission accomplished for Wayne Fuqua. His list was completed but he still wanted to get some additional items.

He was planning on visiting family in eastern Michigan but the forecast forced him to change those plans.

“Likely, we’re going to stay here and doing things here locally instead of travelling,” Fuqua said.

It isn’t just the shoppers who are feeling the rush.

“I was out shopping until 11 o’clock (Tuesday) night myself,” said Lauren Lasater of Colors & Cocktails. “As a shop owner, we’re working long hours, so it’s hard to shop.”

The hours are busy, too. Lasater says sales this month at her art studio already matched that of last December. This week, she’s seeing even more customers getting their last-minute shopping done earlier.

“I think people are really taking this seriously. People are really realizing: it’s crunch time, Sunday is Christmas,” Lasater added.

It is the same story at Bookbug and This Is A Bookstore on Oakland Drive, where the busiest day this week was Tuesday.

“I think people are preparing for that snowstorm. Some people are coming in droves now … more than they had been earlier,” said manager Gideon Mackenzie.

The busiest day this week was Tuesday for Bookbug and This Is A Bookstore on Oakland Drive.
The busiest day this week was Tuesday for Bookbug and This Is A Bookstore on Oakland Drive.

Andrea Bitely with the Michigan Retailers Association said procrastinating consumer behavior actually leads to big sales that make or break small businesses.

“There will be last minute gifts that people need, before actual Christmas Eve or Christmas Day depending on when you do gifts,” Bitely explained. “The last few days are really the time when brick and mortar retailers get those final shoppers. They tend to spend a little bit more. They go into one, maybe two retailers, and they go in and they spend money.”

But with such a weather event, the hardest question for business owners, like Adam Weiner of Bricks & Minifigs Kalamazoo, is whether to stay open or close up for the day.

“We want everyone to be safe out there,” Weiner said. “I don’t want anybody to try to be a hero or anything, even though it’s an important time of the year.”

2022 marks the first holiday season for Weiner and his staff, who opened the Lego store in the summer. A November snowstorm forced them to close for one day, which singlehandedly set them back 30% in revenue. While they were able to get that back within a couple of weeks, Weiner hopes history doesn’t repeat itself.

Bricks & Minifigs Kalamazoo sells items to a customer.
Bricks & Minifigs Kalamazoo sells items to a customer.

“It affected that momentum that we had leading into the holiday season. We lost that a little bit and had to build back up. … It’s been growing and growing these past few weeks,” Weiner explained.

A couple of Kalamazoo area employees added that the 80-20 rule, also generically known as the Pareto principle, is real: 80% of their business comes from 20% of the year. In this case, it is the holiday season.

“We don’t want to reach that peak. We want to reach it on Friday or Saturday afternoon, not (Wednesday),” Weiner said. “But we’ll take what comes and we’ll make the best of it.”