COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — As e-commerce shipping deadlines pass by with less than a week until Christmas, gift-getters will be left with fewer routes to secure presents. 

Tasha Lewis, a fashion and retail studies associate professor at Ohio State University, said holiday-shopping procrastination can sometimes yield more attractive discounts, but cautioned that it comes with its own set of costs. 

In Ohio, holiday sales were forecasted to increase by 3.4% in 2022, according to a November report by the Economics Center at the University of Cincinnati for the Ohio Council of Retail Merchants. That generally missed the national mark, where reports from Deloitte and the National Retail Federation placed growth in the 4% to 8% range. 

But in the final countdown before unwrapping widely commences, shoppers were forecasted to break a record on “Super Saturday” — or the last Saturday before Christmas, which this year fell on Dec. 17 — according to a National Retail Federation press release.

Last-minute shopping deals, drawbacks

Lewis was readying herself to head out of the door Monday afternoon to tick some final presents off her list — home goods, wines, and other food. “It’s definitely a time to look for a deal,” she said in an interview. 

But heftier discounts, such as an extra 10% or 15% off in the final days of holiday shopping, sometimes come with limited inventory or damaged merchandise, Lewis said. Consumer decisions are also influenced by the deadline holiday shoppers are staring down.

“You’re just like, ‘I want to get something,'” Lewis said. “Just to give them something that may not be something they would wear or something that they want to get rid of.”

For last-minute buys or otherwise, Lewis recommended considering gifts people can consume, which could range from food to wellness items.

Return, refund policies vary

Under Ohio law, retailers are not required to offer a return policy, according to the state attorney general’s website. If a store does offer refunds, the state mandates they disclose their refund policies to shoppers prior to the point-of-purchase.

Still, brick-and-mortar and online stores often allow returns on items before and after the holidays — but the terms and conditions will vary by store, Lewis said. Ohio also does not bar retailers from charging restocking fees for returned items, according to the attorney general. 

To try to limit returns, Lewis recommended gift-buyers pay close attention to any damages before they purchase a gift, make note of the timeframe for returns after purchase, and store purchase receipts somewhere they can be found later on. 

“When we are last-minute shopping, we may not be as organized with keeping track of what we bought and where we bought it,” Lewis said, adding that trying to make returns absent a paper or e-receipt can create a headache.

On average, close to 18% of merchandise sold nationally during the holiday season is forecasted to be brought back to the seller, according to the National Retail Federation press release.