CHICAGO (CBS) — Retailers didn’t have high expectations this year, but as the holiday shopping season wraps up, they are on pace for the best sales since 2007.

As CBS 2’s Mike Puccinelli reports, retailers this year might even see the best sales ever.

As of 11 a.m., crowds of last-minute shoppers were swarming on State Street downtown Friday morning. Snowflakes were falling, and it was beginning to feel a lot like Christmas – a white Christmas at that.

But retailers are seeing a lot of another color – namely green. According to the National Retail Federation, sales this year nationally should total about $451 billion dollars, up 3.3 percent compared to last year.

This year, since most people have Christmas Eve off because it falls on a Friday, the federation says a strong finish could put retailers making this year the best ever for total sales.

At Target, Sears and many other stores around the country, hours were extended to cash in on last-minute Christmas shoppers.

“I got some ketchup,” said shopper Rosalva Pina. “Little girls go crazy for these things.”

Pina is not alone. Twelve percent of shoppers wait until the last day to “be the Santa they want to be,” as a Sears ad campaign puts it.

“I actually got some stuff for myself, because I was across the street buying stuff for my wife’s last-minute Christmas shopping,” said shopper Juan Perez.

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Some procrastinate in order to capitalize on steep price drops.

“What did I get today? Last-minute gifts,” a woman said. “Actually, I came today, though, because I thought I could catch some sales.”

Others are forced to wait until the last because of their busy schedules.

“I’ve been working, really, just been working,” a man said. “That isn’t procrastinating.”

Whatever the reason, managers and cashiers say this Christmastime feels like boom-time for the bottom line.

“We’ve been super-busy in our store,” one retail store staffer said, “We’ve had a lot of last-minute holiday-shoppers coming in for gifts, so long, long lines at the registers.”

Retailers are hoping to claim 2010 for the distinction of the best holiday shopping season ever. But for shopper Joycelyn Clark, what was really best was finally being done with shopping on Christmas Eve. It literally put a skip in her step.

The average person spends $688 on holiday shopping, but everyone to whom CBS 2 spoke reported spending even more than that.

Retailers say at the end of the day, they expect Christmas Eve to be one of the busiest shopping days of the year. It’s being called “Fantastic Friday” or “Black Friday II.”

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