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Last minute male shoppers wage Main Street blitz
Not for the faint-hearted, a trip to Vineyard Haven's Main Street last Saturday or Sunday meant jostling through the annual crowd of "round tuits," those who wait until the 363rd and 364th days before Christmas to get around to holiday shopping.
Tisbury's harbormaster Jay Wilbur, right, found his Christmas shopping at Bramhall & Dunn to be smooth sailing, thanks to manager Robert Cropper, who rings up the purchases.
Gender stereotyping may be frowned upon in our politically correct society, but when it comes to holiday shoppers, many Vineyard Haven retailers agreed there are two types, those who shop early (mostly women) and those who don't (mostly men). Consequently, the names of some people in this article have been omitted to protect the sheepish.
Glancing around at a store full of people around 4 pm on Saturday, Rainy Day manager Heather Kochlin said it had been "jammed all day," mostly with men. In preparation for the onslaught of last-minute male shoppers, Ms. Kochlin said she used her own husband as a guinea pig to road-test store displays for masculine shop-appeal.
"He told me to put everything in piles, have clothing stacked in all sizes, and get things off the floor because guys wouldn't notice them," she recalled.
Sales associate Paulette Potter, left, helps Ken Bilzerian wrap up his shopping at Claudia jewelry store just in time for Christmas Eve. Photos by Janet Helfer
Some of the guys who came in on Saturday confessed they missed Friday's event because it was too early for them to start their shopping, especially at 8 am. When asked if he needed help on Saturday, one man replied that he was just looking. "I don't want to rush into these things - I still have tomorrow," he said with a grin.
Down the block at LeRoux at Home, co-owner April Levandowski said she expected to see a higher percentage of male shoppers on Sunday, when they usually buy gift certificates as time gets short.
Although men dominate last-minute shopping stories, LeRoux sales associate Chris Brooks said a woman made the most unusual request he heard this year. She wanted to buy a fake artichoke to put in her daughter's Christmas stocking, a tradition she had carried on for 19 years. With none available, Mr. Brooks and his associates did some quick thinking and sold her a towel embroidered with an artichoke instead.
Last-minute shoppers call for some creative solutions, as demonstrated on Saturday by Margie Meltzer, co-owner of C.B. Stark Jewelers. After gently explaining to a customer that his wife's jewelry project (brought in only a few days earlier) would not be ready by Christmas, she suggested he buy a bottle of jewelry cleaner, which she would gift-wrap beautifully, and put a card with it describing the gift to come.
Her suggestion brought a smile of relief from the gentleman, who was delighted to have something to put under the tree and one less gift to wrap.
"After 36 years in this business, I'm used to coming up with ideas to try to accommodate people," said Ms. Meltzer.
On Sunday, many store personnel reported business started slow, picking up around noon. Late that afternoon at Claudia jewelry store, Ken Bilzerian of Vineyard Haven, who owns "The Great Put-On" store in Edgartown, expertly balanced several bags of gift-wrapped boxes, one of several loads, for his final trip to his car. In all fairness, he did testify that he started shopping for his large family in September.
"He's a wonderful customer, and we see him every day of the week before Christmas," said sales associate Paulette Potter, who has worked at Claudia's for 10 years. "Usually a lot of husbands come in on Christmas Eve, but this year, everyone came in yesterday." Paulette's daughter Danielle, a graduate student, helped during Saturday's rush by doing the gift-wrapping.
The slow-down on Christmas Eve came as no surprise to Sherryl Schrader, owner of Moonstone Jewelers, who said after 20 years in business, she knew that would happen when Christmas Eve fell on a Sunday. However, she added, retailers find it worth staying open both days because the pre-Christmas weekend is their last big push to make sales to help carry them through the slow winter months.
Ms. Schrader agreed that most of the last-minute shoppers she sees are men, who come in to buy their bigger purchases for wives or girlfriends last. Up the street at Bramhall and Dunn, sales associate Joy Catullo said Sunday's theme could have been, "The men of Main Street."
"You never see them shopping, but there's a lot of men downtown today," she laughed. "Men never pay attention to what fashions women wear or like, so they buy a lot of cashmere socks and smelly candles," she said.
One of the store's last-minute patrons included Tisbury's harbormaster Jay Wilbur, who said he traditionally shops for his wife Beth on Christmas Eve. Store manager Robert Cropper, who has known the couple for years, helped Mr. Wilbur make his purchases in record time, 22 minutes before the store closed.
Although subsequent holiday observation of last-minute Christmas shoppers will be necessary to draw accurate conclusions, it seemed more than a coincidence that several store personnel described male shoppers as having "glazed eyes" and entering their establishments in a state of "dazed confusion."