Last-Minute Shoppers Swarm Malls

‘Twas the Friday before Christmas -- and CNBC’s Margaret Brennan reported a “steady stream” of shoppers at the giant Garden State Plaza Mall in Paramus, N.J. She noted that people began filling the stores at 7 a.m. today.

The International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) has predicted that tomorrow –- the overlap of two key retail days, Dec. 23 and the final Saturday before Christmas -- will be the busiest shopping day in this holiday season.

Brennan said retail associations see sales of apparel and jewelry benefiting from the last-minute surge. And one of the biggest winners –- across every product segment -- may be gift cards: the National Retail Federation predicts that Americans will spend $25 billion on the cards. Brennan noted that Circuit City said its sales of gift cards rose 55% in the third quarter of 2006, from the year prior.