For those like Jim Malatesta of Warminster, who haven't begun their Christmas gift hunting yet, this weekend presents an agonizing choice:
Shopping or football?
"It's a tough spot to be in, for sure," said Malatesta, 29, a veteran procrastinator who plans to hit the ground running early Saturday at Willow Grove Park and Montgomery Malls, in that order, to finish his shopping chores so he can devote all Sunday to the NFL.
"Maybe I can do all my shopping in the electronics section so I can keep an eye on the games," joked the elementary school teacher who belongs to two fantasy football leagues with championships this weekend. "If I have two or more things I still need to get on Sunday, then I will break out in a cold sweat."
To help Malatesta and many others like him, the region's malls and big box retailers are gearing up for their own championship weekend with deals and additional hours Saturday and Sunday.
With Christmas Eve falling on Sunday for the first time in a decade, retailers have an extra weekend for a full court press.
Early morning customers to JCPenney stores on Saturday will get a $10 coupon (that works if they spend $10).
Kohl's plans to stay open 24 hours a day starting Thursday until Christmas Eve.
Best Buy will stay open 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Christmas Eve.
Responding to Internet shopping's growth, Walmart is touting same-day pickup for online purchases until 6 p.m. Christmas Eve to help procrastinators.
Malls owned by Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust, like Cherry Hill, Plymouth Meeting, Willow Grove, and Exton Square – and Simon Property Group — including King of Prussia, Montgomery Mall, and Oxford Valley Mall — will open earlier and close later on Friday and Saturday. They will be open on Christmas Eve until 6 p.m.
All Simon malls – like PREIT malls – will be closed on Christmas Day.
"Brick-and-mortar retail is the best way to guarantee that all of your purchases are in hand … for Christmas morning," said PREIT spokeswoman Heather Crowell. Many retailers "offer in-store pickup for online purchases – including Apple, Nordstrom, Macy's, and J. Crew, to name a few."
Crowell said that for those wanting to give an experience — a huge trend — they can get gift cards at the new 5 Wits, LEGOLAND Discovery Center, Dave & Buster's, or Build-a-Bear at Plymouth Meeting Mall. For bowling, karaoke, and video games, there are gift cards at Exton Square Mall's Round1.
This weekend is the final leg of the estimated $680 billion holiday shopping season that kicked off on Black Friday, followed by a record $6.6 billion in sales for Cyber Monday after Thanksgiving weekend.
Just over half of U.S. adults in a National Retail Federation survey released Wednesday expect to finish their holiday shopping by Friday.
The survey predicted about 53 percent of consumers — about 126 million people — plan to shop this weekend on "Super Saturday," the last one before Christmas.
Only 12 percent of consumers had finished their holiday shopping as of Dec. 12.
A total of 55 percent expected to be done purchasing gifts by midweek this week, with 6 percent saying they will still be shopping Sunday and 5 percent saying their final gifts won't be bought until after Christmas.
Kathy Smith, director of marketing at King of Prussia Mall, advised last-minute shoppers to use resting and recharging stations at the Concierge lounge, Savor food pavilion, and soft seating areas throughout.
Nancy Minnick, 60, a stay-at-home mom from Newtown Square, was wearing her Christmas sweater and carrying bags from Lululemon, North Face, David Yurman, and Athleta after nearly three hours of shopping Thursday at KOP.
And she still had more to get for her three grown sons and daughter.
"Too busy with other things," Minnick said. "I'll be back here Friday."
By early afternoon Friday, traffic was heavy along I-95 heading into Bucks County as parking lots filled up at Kohl's and Target stores and Oxford Valley Mall near Langhorne.
In South Jersey, Dennis Gutierrez, 27, a disc jockey from Mount Holly, said the internet would save him this year.
While he got gifts for his father, mother, and younger brother Thursday at Cherry Hill Mall, he still needs his girlfriend's gift — a two-day getaway — which he plans to purchase online at www.cheapcaribbean.com by Christmas Eve.
"Online shopping is my new best friend this year," he said.
MALL HOURS FOR FINAL HOLIDAY SHOPPING WEEKEND:
Malls owned by Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust (PREIT), including Cherry Hill, Plymouth Meeting, Willow Grove, and Exton Square – will open Friday and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m., and on Sunday from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Simon-owned malls -- including King of Prussia, Montgomery Mall, and Oxford Valley Mall -- will also be open from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday, Christmas Eve. Philadelphia Mills Mall in the Northeast will be open from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday.
The Simon-owned Gloucester Premium Outlets in Blackwood, N.J., will be open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday; Philadelphia Premium Outlets in Limerick will open 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday; 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday; and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday.
All PREIT and Simon malls will be closed on Christmas Day.