GAINESVILLE - Just as it is across the rest of the country, the last minute rush to get ready for Christmas Day is well underway in Gainesville and Hall County.
While department stores, gift shops and grocery stores were just beginning to pick up the pace around 8 a.m., one spot that had been hopping for an hour already was the Honey Baked Ham store on Thompson Bridge Road.
One of the store managers, Vince Matt Vengochea told AccessNorthGA.com that in the days leading up to Christmas Eve, the Gainesville store has served about 4,000 customers. In the opening hour Tuesday, 100 people had already picked up orders.
"We're going to see another 1,500 today...so today's going to be so much fun, but today's going to be very, very hectic," said Vengochea.
He said the company starts preparing for the Christmas rush in July. Another manager, Jennifer Adkins, said all six full-time staff members and 40 seasonal workers had been busy the whole Christmas season.
At Lakeshore Mall, the parking lot was just beginning to fill for the last day of Christmas shopping.
An associate by the name of Kayla at Dick's Sporting Goods, which opened just in time for Christmas earlier this fall, said she was planning to stay on her feet most of the day.
"We're gonna be bombarded today," she predicted. "Totally going to be like a second Black Friday - that's what it's been like the last couple of days."
If that's the case, then the crowds at the mall will buck the nationwide trend. Retailers have reported the last three weeks have seen a downturn in Christmas sales.
Trae Bodge, an analyst with Retailmenot.com told Georgia News Network last week that some 87% of shoppers had not finished with their Christmas shopping, many because they weren't sure what to buy and others because they didn't have time.
A shopper at the WalMart store on Shallowford Road in Gainesville had another reason for waiting.
"It just got to the point this year where money came in late," said Josh, who did not give his last name.
There was a small flurry of activity at area grocery stores, as well. Tammy Hannon was at J&J Foods on Limestone Parkway, and she said she was weary, mainly because she had shopped most of the day Monday, too.
"I can hardly walk," she said.
NOTE: Most stores will close early Christmas Eve, and many are scheduled to open early on December 26 to make a year-end retail sales push.