NAPLES — Shoppers flocked to downtown Naples, the malls and a Bonita Springs flea market Saturday for the last weekend of shopping before Christmas.
Shortly before noon Saturday, shoppers meandered along Fifth Avenue South’s sidewalks, sipping Starbucks coffee, while others shopped and dozens sat outside Fifth Avenue Coffee Co., reading newspapers and talking.
At Wind in the Willows-Beth Boutique, Jeff Raffel of Delaware stood outside the fitting rooms as his wife, Joanne, tried on top after top, modeling each for him.
They’ve come to Naples at Christmas time for the past three years and were staying for three days at the Inn on Fifth, where the lobby was decorated with dozens of twinkling Christmas trees and poinsettias, miniature Christmas carolers, a Santa and elves. They pick up gifts for Christmas, but like to shop for unusual items for birthdays.
“We’ve been looking for grandkids, our kids, my wife and even myself,” Raffel said of their Christmas shopping. “And she has a big birthday coming up.”
His wife was trying on clothing for herself, but he was eyeing a school bus for his model school bus collection, which already includes school bus earrings (“which I don’t wear”), school bus clocks and more.
“But I don’t have a school bus potty,” Raffel said of the yellow, bus-shaped potty training box. “This is tempting, but we live in Delaware.”
Owner Beth Ressler said her shop was doing “really, really great,” and her employees are always eager to be paid time-and-a-half so she’ll be open for Christmas for visitors staying in hotels who are “bored.”
At The Lady from Haiti, which moved from Fifth to Park Street, a side street, steel drum Christmas music enticed shoppers like Terry Dunphy of Naples, who clutched a colorful Haitian bus refrigerator magnet while stocking up on Caribbean-styled stocking stuffers.
“This is for a cousin coming in from New Zealand and she has a lot of this stuff,” Dunphy said. “My whole family does. Every house you go into is full of this stuff. We just love the Caribbean.”
Like many shoppers, she was finished with all her major purchases and was just gathering small gifts.
This year is the biggest year for procrastinators since 2004, according to the National Retail Federation’s 2009 Holiday Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey, which showed that nearly 42 million people, 19.1 percent of shoppers surveyed, hadn’t yet started their shopping as of late last week, while only 8.6 percent had finished.
At Coastland Center mall in Naples, which was full of afternoon shoppers, Tayler Carraway of Naples, sat at one of four chairs at the Straight 4 U kiosk, where stylist “Joseph” used a straightener-curling iron to add numerous spiral curls.
It was a short, relaxing break from shopping, but she needed to learn how to use the ceramic curler she’d just purchased for herself and as a surprise for her boyfriend, who’d see her long, straight hair full of spiral curls for Christmas.
“I’m looking for gifts for my mom and sister,” said Carraway, who is on winter break from studying nursing at Edison College. “I got them stocking stuffers. This is the end of shopping for me.”
At Go Games kiosk, Sheila Gross of Marco Island watched her grandchildren play. Dylan Rogers, 12, and Celine Carvalho, 10, and her sisters, Sierra, 9, and Téa, 5, of Marco Island, watched in fascination as motorized fuzzy animals rolled and walked.
“They’re distracted now, but they’re looking for a leather jacket, probably something black and kind of furry, for their mommy,” Gross said.
She’d already bought her grandchildren’s gifts, including Crayola’s Color Wonder and one of 2009’s top 10 toys, Disney’s Hannah Montana doll. She’s usually finished by Thanksgiving, but her mother is sick so she began in early December and has finished.
A crowd gathered around a Christmas ornament kiosk, where Lynn Donohue of Naples held her 14-month-old daughter, Reann, who wore a Santa suit with Mickey Mouse embroidery and red socks. They were looking for a pink ornament for baby’s pink bedroom, which already has a pink tree.
“We went to Build-a-Bear Workshop and grandma and grandpa bought a pink bear for her,” Donohue said of her parents, Ann and John Czajka of Naples.
Just before the 4 p.m. closing at Flamingo Island Flea Market in Bonita Springs, 86-year-old World War II veteran Tony Fishera belted out “New York, New York” in white shorts and a white shirt as shoppers loudly cheered his finalé.
Beth Dickerson of Bonita Springs swayed with the music as her Maltese, Boomer, rested his head on her shoulder during a break from shopping, buying clothing and toys for her grandchildren.
“I’m flying back to Indiana on Monday night and will try to finish up there,” Dickerson said of her last two gifts for her daughter and son-in-law. “I spent probably $300 here today.”