"It was kind of slow in October," said Jan Corradin, owner of Sarah B. Fine Stationery. "November started to really pick up, and December's been great. It's not quite like last year. It's still been good."
"People are spending conservatively and still getting the right gift and that's very important," said shopper Egbert Lloyd. "Spend wisely, shop around, make sure you're getting the best for your money."
Many consumers are foregoing luxury items, and sticking with the essentials.
"I came from Florida and I don't have any boots," said shopper Sue Rykowski. "They were actually destroyed in the June floods up here in Wisconsin."
The weather could play a destructive role again -- this time for stores' bottom lines.
"We had big hopes," said store owner Jan Byce. "Now, it seems like the weatherman's not agreeing with what our plans are."
A relatively mild and cloudy afternoon, Saturday was the calm between the storms. But more snow, plummeting temperatures, and subzero wind chills could deter shoppers, and freeze the sale profits stores were counting on. Still, retail officials are optimistic.
"Sales may not be quite as high as they've been in the past," said Leslie Watkins, Hilldale Mall assistant manager. "But, people are shopping because Christmas comes just once a year. So I think people are ready to make a little bit of sacrifice to get someone a nice gift."
The Chicago research firm Shoppertrak says the last weekend before Christmas usually accounts for 12-percent of holiday sales.