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Shoppers crowd stores on last weekend before Christmas

Associated Press

NEW YORK — The nation’s shoppers — taking advantage of deep discounts and expanded hours — jammed stores over the last weekend before Christmas to try to grab a hard-to-find Wii or scoop up bargains on other items. But the spending surge may not be enough to offset what is shaping up to be a mediocre December for some retailers.

Based on early reports on Sunday, mall operators including Macerich Co. said they were pleased with the spending spree over the weekend, but they were still counting on Christmas Eve and post-Christmas business to meet holiday sales goals in what has turned out to be a nail biter of a season.

Meanwhile, even as shoppers continued to snap up flat-screen TVs, video game software and other gadgets, benefiting stores like Best Buy Co., the apparel business remains challenging, analysts said.

Ed Schmults, chief executive of toy merchant FAO Schwarz, which operates stores in Chicago and New York, said Sunday that pre-Christmas business is below expectations despite a sales surge this weekend.

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"It’s almost kind of worth waiting and shifting through the hustle and bustle," said Carly Moore, of Chicago, who was heading to Macy’s on the city’s State Street shopping corridor to scoop up some discounted clothing. But she was still frustrated that she couldn’t find Nintendo’s Wii game console, after trying at least five stores.

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