It took two tries, two days in a row, but Dee Hoefer finally wrapped up her shopping list Monday, joining hundreds of others making their last purchases in the hours before Christmas.
Her son-in-law wanted a Scheels gift card. She had visited the sporting goods chain's Omaha store Sunday, but it was closed because of an electrical fire.
She didn't mind the return trip, however. And she went back with the kind of attitude that retailers can appreciate:
“While I was here, I had to spend some more,” said Hoefer, who has been visiting from Grand Island, Neb.
Indeed, several retailers, including a spokeswoman for the Village Pointe shopping center where Scheels is located, said shoppers have been doing their part to keep sales up this year in the area.
Some national reports have found consumers wary of economic uncertainty and weary of disasters such as superstorm Sandy and the power outages that followed.
But Omaha has been insulated from some of the economic ups and downs that have hit the rest of the country.
Part of Village Pointe, in fact, had its own storm-related power outage last week.
But Kim Jones, marketing director for Village Pointe and Shadow Lake Towne Center in Papillion, said merchants have been having a good season.
"Despite the little hiccups we've had, I would not see that (down national) trend at our shopping center at all," she said.
Jones said official numbers won't be out until after the season is over.
Meanwhile, retailers now look ahead to Wednesday. Traditionally, the week after Christmas is one of the biggest of the year.
“We absolutely anticipate it will be a very busy day for us — not just Wednesday but for the rest of the week,” Jones said.
Last month, however, retailers ranging from Macy's Inc. to Target Corp. posted same-store sales that trailed analysts' estimates.
Consumer confidence fell in December to a five-month low, according to a Dec. 21 report.
ShopperTrak, which counts foot traffic and its own proprietary sales numbers from 40,000 retail outlets across the country, last Wednesday cut its forecast for holiday spending to 2.5 percent growth, or $257.7 billion, from prior expectations of a 3.3 percent rise.
Online, sales rose 8.4 percent to $48 billion from Oct. 28 through Saturday, according to a measure by MasterCard Advisors' SpendingPulse. That is below the online sales growth of between 15 percent and 17 percent seen in the prior 18-month period, according to the data service, which tracks all spending across all forms of payment, including cash.
Dale Merkel, Scheels general manager, said it was “painful” to be closed on Sunday. But the store received multiple messages of sympathy and support.
“It's been a great Christmas season,” he said.
Hoefer, in fact, added some items to her list Monday. Her husband suggested movie passes for the grandkids. She also bought a gift for her 80-year-old father-in-law, who can't get out, to give to his wife.
Shopping also was steady Monday in Omaha's Old Market and at the Nebraska Furniture Mart, with most people, like Hoefer, finishing their lists.
Doug Bernier, 37, picked up last-minute, smaller items. He already had gotten “the big stuff.”
“It's always 'Did I get enough? Did I forget this?' ” Bernier said.
After buying some vinyl records of vintage Christmas music, he ducked into Tannenbaum, the Christmas store, to pick up ornaments for his three kids. He and his wife buy them ornaments each Christmas to mark the years and build up each child's collection.
Traelon Graham, 20, looked at bracelets at the Souq, an import shop. The clock was ticking to find the right thing for his mother and girlfriend.
“I'm really last-minute,” Graham said.
Graham, a restaurant server, said he planned to spend more money this year on gifts for family and friends.
Last year, he said, he lost his job and had to save his money. This year, steady work has left him with more money to spare.
Jeff and Julie Taylor, who drove from Boston to celebrate Christmas with Omaha relatives, spent some time looking around the Old Market, which was near their hotel.
The Taylors enjoyed examining some of the oddities on the shelf at the Souq. They said they might pick up a few things.
“We've got money burning a hole in our pocket,” Julie Taylor said, but that prompted a quick and jolly denial from her husband.
About 11 a.m., the Nebraska Furniture Mart was humming with shoppers — enough to keep the customer service people on the floor busy, and the checkers checking, but not so many that anybody had to wait in line very long.
“People are happy. They're walking around smiling and saying 'Merry Christmas' or 'Happy Holidays,' ” said store director Scott Baker, festooned with a Santa hat. “I love this time of year.”
Outside the Mart, Jim Pogge of Papillion strode toward the store with purpose, but not stress, in his step. He intended to pick up “just a couple of last-minute things.”
“We got most of it done earlier,” he said. “We didn't go hog wild this year. Mostly things we needed, and a couple of treats here and there.”
World-Herald staff writer Christopher Burbach contributed to this report, which includes material from Bloomberg News and the Associated Press.