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5 Best Spots for Truly Last-Minute Shopping

Tickers in this article: GPS TGT WMT

Digital gift cards

Oh, you can run out to a supermarket and pick up a gift card to just about any store or restaurant of your choosing, but why would you do that? Digital gift cards offer your last chance to finish up your shopping without leaving the house and dealing with the equally frazzled holiday hordes.

A 2011 white paper conducted by Aberdeen Group with Transaction Wireless found 76% of consumers surveyed planned to adopt digital gift cards in the near future. Transaction Wireless found that, a year later, the majority of gift card purchases have switched to digital. They're emailed to you or your recipient immediately, they're easy to personalize with text, audio or video, they can be used on a store's website and they're a great option if that last person on your list lives nowhere near you.

They've also come a long way in the past few years. According to rankings by gift card ratings site ScripSmart, companies including Gap (GPS) , Nordstrom, Macy's (M) , Home Depot (HD) and even Yum Brands' (YUM) Pizza Hut have made their e-cards simple to get, easy to redeem in stores or online and easy to use across multiple brands such as Gap's Old Navy, Athleta or Banana Republic.

The National Retail Federation found that 81% of shoppers planned on buying a gift card this year anyway. At the last minute, it's the simplest option.

Health and beauty stores

Let the big retailers have their Black Friday, Cyber Monday and everything else: Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are the health and beauty store's time to shine.

This isn't CVS (CVS) and Walgreens' (WAL) first time at the reindeer games, and each is pretty cutthroat about making sure the other doesn't hog all of the holiday fun. Each has 24-hour locations open Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Both have regular hours on Christmas Eve at stores that aren't open 24 hours and have something resembling normal hours on Christmas Day.

You're not going to find an iPad at these places, but if you think you can sneak a third-party Android tablet past an unsuspecting relative, CVS touts a couple of $99 models. You won't find that iPhone or Samsung Galaxy III S here, either, but Walgreens offers $149 prepaid T-Mobile smartphones. Admittedly, if you're coming here for anything more than some candy, magazines, razors or beauty supplies to stuff a stocking with, you're courting disappointment.

If you can find that elusive bad movie your sibling loves in the bargain bin or that pair of Pajama Jeans your mom is too embarrassed to buy on her own, though, these stores can make that last-minute trip count.


Insert your Slurpee and lottery ticket jokes here, but 7-Eleven has been the last refuge of hoiday scoundrels for years.