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Big Weekend Ahead for Retailers in Advance of Christmas

Many people think of Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, as the biggest shopping day of the year, but in reality, that honor traditionally goes to the Saturday before Christmas. Since Christmas is on a Sunday this year, this coming Saturday, December 17, is expected to be the busy day.

"Saturday and Sunday of this weekend are going to be huge. Stores are going to be packed. People are going to be buying a lot of things," said Dr. Audrey Guskey, a marketing professor at Duquesne University.

Guskey said that so far, holiday sales have been strong. The National Retail Federation predicted a 2.8 percent increase in holiday sales over last year, but Guskey said that she thinks the increase will hit at least 3 percent.

"Last year sales increased by 5 percent, but the year before that there was an unprecedented drop of almost 4 percent, and that's huge. That was a sign the economy was doing very poorly, but I think overall, retailers are going to be very merry this holiday season," she said.

Still, economic uncertainty is weighing on consumers.

"I think consumers almost seem like they're schizophrenic. They're buying a lot of electronic types of items, some luxury items, clothes are very hot, then they're skimping on a lot of things, so in one sense they're being Santa, and in a sense they're being Scrooge as well," said Guskey.

That skimping comes in the form of giving gifts to fewer people, tipping less, and buying more necessary or practical items rather than frivolous items. More people may be opting to do online shopping this year, though Guskey said that local brick and mortar retailers are doing quite well so far this season.

Online retailers are also trying to get in on the game. More than 2,000 businesses will offer free shipping on Friday, December 16 with the promise of delivery by Christmas Eve.