It would be nice if Santa would do all our shopping and drop the presents under the Christmas tree--gift-wrapped, of course.
But St. Nick is so busy this time of year that you'd better not count on it. After all, Santa likes self-starters.
South Bay stores and malls are expecting an onslaught of shoppers this Thanksgiving weekend, which retailers view as the official start of the Christmas and Hanukkah gift-buying season. Traditionally, it is the biggest weekend of the year for retail sales.
To make gift-buying as easy as possible, here is a South Bay Survival Guide for Holiday Shopping, compiled from suggestions from retailers and police as to when stores are least crowded, where to shop for offbeat gifts, special holiday services and how to avoid becoming a crime victim.
Weekdays Are Better
Mall officials said shoppers will usually find stores less crowded in the morning. For working people, the dinner hour can be a good time to shop, but lunchtime is usually busy. Weekdays, of course, are better than weekends.
Keep in mind that shopping malls are not the only places to buy gifts. Many handmade, one-of-a-kind and collectible items are offered for sale by local charitable organizations, museums and civic organizations. For example:
The South Coast Botanic Garden gift shop on the Palos Verdes Peninsula offers handmade wreaths and cards, holiday ornaments and horticultural books.
The United Nations Center in San Pedro provides a dazzling array of folk art, jewelry and stationery that raises money for the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund and worldwide humanitarian programs.
The Cabrillo Marine Museum in San Pedro carries stuffed marine animal toys such as whales, plus jewelry made from shells and books on marine subjects.
The Gallery Gift Shop at Angels Gate Cultural Center in San Pedro offers a variety of art, sculpture and jewelry.
Palos Verdes Community Art Assn.'s studio on the Palos Verdes Peninsula displays and offers for sale the works of about 60 artists.
The Torrance Historical Society offers T-shirts, post cards and books on local history.
For mall-shy shoppers, there are plenty of stores in the old downtowns of several South Bay cities and in small complexes along major roads. To avoid stores altogether, retailers suggest gift certificates for movie theaters, ice cream parlors or even at a dry cleaner or pet-grooming salon. Theater tickets and museum memberships can be purchased by telephone with a credit card.
All of the South Bay's shopping centers will offer extended hours for holiday shopping, with stores opening earlier and closing later as it gets closer to Christmas.
The shopping centers provide spectacular decorations, visits by Santa and an array of special services to pamper shoppers:
Del Amo Fashion Center in Torrance will offer two Santa Clauses--one, in the mall's Broadway court, will be greeting youngsters in a two-story chateau occupied by animated bears, and the other, in the Ohrbach's court, will be receiving visitors in a 12-foot-high toy mouse. A collection of 16 Santa Claus figures from around the world will be on view in the mall's I. Magnin court, according to spokeswoman Brandace Berger.
The Courtyard Mall in Rolling Hills Estates will provide free Christmas and Hanukkah gift wraps for merchandise purchased there. The gift-wrap center is located near the mall's food court so shoppers can drop off their purchases, have a cup of coffee and pick up the wrapped packages in an hour or less, said Mary Harris, marketing director.
A free shuttle bus service is available connecting the Courtyard and Peninsula Center/Peacock Alley malls and adjacent shopping areas, according to Richard Funk of the Peninsula Center. The shuttle is co-sponsored by the City of Rolling Hills Estates, he said.
Free Trees With $250 Purchase
The Hawthorne Plaza mall is giving away six-foot-tall Douglas fir trees with purchases totaling $250, according to marketing director Sharron King. The mall also offers a one-stop location where packages will be gift-wrapped and processed for delivery by United Parcel Service at normal rates, she said.
Old Towne Mall in Torrance will sponsor a Girl Scout gift-wrap booth, with proceeds benefitting the youth organization.
The Galleria at South Bay in Redondo Beach offers valet parking for $3, and uniformed officers will be on hand to speed the flow of traffic in parking lots and garages, according to R. W. Recknor, general manager. Gift-wrapping will be available, with proceeds going to local charities, and packages can be mailed at a U.S. Post Office on the third floor of the mall, he said.