GLENDALE, Wisc. — The rush of last-minute Christmas shoppers is a sign that people are feeling confident returning to retail stores this year.
The National Retail Federation (NRF) says this year could potentially be a record-breaking year for sales. Economists predict sales could climb by as much as 11.5% this year over last year. Experts say increased vaccination rates and consistent safety measures inside of stores is helping to boost consumer confidence.
"It feels a little bit back to normal. I see a few more smiles and it just feels good to be out and about and to see people again," said Kimberly Gonzalez, who was out shopping for her sons gifts.
Many shoppers say they're doing their part to keep everyone safe.
"Keeping my mask on and getting my shots," said shopper Andre Torrence.
From malls to locally owned small businesses, each transaction is a sign of the retail rebound happening nationwide, even despite inflation and supply chain interruptions.
"There's been problems with the supply chain but we've got to make due and get through it," said Julie Stulmacher, owner of Winkies Toys and Variety in Whitefish Bay.
Stulmacher says her shelves are going bare with customers rushing in and making purchases after a very uncertain year.
"They're sending more green cards than ever, we've sold more gift wrap than we have in the past. People are gift buying and it has just been a fantastic year," she said.
With masks on and most of her staff vaccinated, she says the focus now is on keeping her family business alive and making sure last-minute shoppers find the perfect gifts for loved ones.