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Last minute Christmas shopping: 5 survival strategies

If you've left your Christmas shopping to the very last minute, it can be overwhelming but there is no need to panic. Here are five tips for getting it done.

The best time to go shopping is in the evenings, says one store owner

The best time to do your last minute holiday shopping is in the evenings. (CBC)

If you've left your Christmas shopping to the very last minute, it can be overwhelming, but there's no need to panic, sweat or become anxious — at least not yet.

First of all, it's nice to take comfort in knowing that you aren't alone. A recent Angust Reid Forum survey estimated that 45 per cent of Canadians buy their gifts at the last minute.

Secondly, many shopkeepers are expecting your arrival and have planned for your lack of planning, so to speak.

"We normally tend to close at 4 p.m. on Christmas Eve, but we don't get out of the store until 6:00 p.m. or 7:00 p.m. because there are always those last minute people who come in to the door with a panic-stricken look on their face and you can't help but let them in," said Joanna Mileos, owner of The Granville Island Toy Company. 

Survival guide for procrastinators 

Here are some strategies from retailers to help you survive the crowded malls and avoid the busy parking lots and long line-ups. 

1. Pick the best time to shop

The stores know you are out there, so most have extended evening hours.

While there is no way to find the store completely empty, early morning or later in the evening will be the best time to shop says Mileos. 

2. Plan your transportation

Pick out malls that have easy access to public transit, because the last thing you want is traffic eating into your shopping time. 

Metropolis at Metrotown, Pacific Centre or McArthurGlen, the new designer outlet mall at the Vancouver International Airport are all accessible on Skytrain or Canada Line. 

3. Park strategically

If you have no choice but to drive, don't bother trying to find a good parking spot. The second you see a spot, snatch it, says Peggy Howard, the General Manager for Guildford Town Centre. 

Park Royal Shopping Centre and Metropolis at Metrotown have brought in outside help to direct traffic.

"They're just helping with the flow of traffic and ensuring people are moving around the property as best and as efficiently as possible," said Christina Piers with Park Royal Shopping Centre. 

4. Get crafty and original

Christmas craft fairs are mostly done by now, but if you are still on the hunt for artisanal chocolates or wooden furniture head to the craft fair at the White Rock Museum and Archives. Their last day is December 22. 

"It's nice quality, good value, it's beautiful in there, there is so much selection. There is something for everybody," said Annabelle Low, a volunteer at the museum. 

5. You are never too late

If you are really in a bind, there is always the ATM. But let's not forget Christmas isn't really about the presents but spending time with the ones you love. 

"Christmas to me is more about being with the family and spending some quality time with the family instead of worrying about the gift," said Mileos.

With files from Catherine Rolfsen


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