It was shopper versus storm in the final retail battle of the holiday season, and torrential downpours and gusty winds lost handily.
Malls and stores across the Bay Area on Sunday were flooded, so to speak, with customers hoping to check the final gifts off their list, visit Santa or just escape the cold and rain.
Naveen Kachroo braved the dark skies to shop for his kids at Stanford Shopping Center in Palo Alto. He hoped to finish his list back home in Seattle before visiting family in the Bay Area, but instead was out in a fierce downpour -- and didn't seem to mind it.
"It's what I'm used to," he said. "I kind of brought the weather with me."
Holiday shopping hit full frenzy on the last of the busiest shopping days of the season, proving true the adage that bad weather can mean big bucks for retail.
Michael Kushner, a LEGO store employee at Stoneridge Shopping Center in Pleasanton, said customers were lined up before doors opened at 8 a.m.
"I've never seen the weather turn people away," he said.
Rachel Bowers, a Nordstrom clerk at Stoneridge, said the store was swamped with shoppers all weekend, and the rain wasn't slowing traffic.
"They still have to get their gifts," she said.
The shoppers are badly needed after "fiscal cliff" worries, Superstorm Sandy and the trauma of the Connecticut school shootings kept sales sluggish after Black Friday. ShopperTrak, which analyzes customer traffic, last week revised its national holiday sales projections from 3.3 to 2.5 percent above last year.
Retailers expected Sunday to be slightly less busy than the day before -- Super Saturday is one of the busiest shopping days of the year. But Sunday has its own nomenclature in the retail world -- experts call it Father's Day for all the men who finally hit the stores.
The theory seemed to hold true at Bay Area malls, where around every corner men hunched over glass cases sparkling with diamonds and hustled through stores with jewelry boxes, many saying that, yet again, they had waited until the last minute.
J.P. Miller said he's in the malls "every single year" during the final shopping hours to find a gift for his girlfriend.
"She's really hard to shop for," he said.
Jay Yost, of Pleasanton, was picking up some earrings for his wife at Stoneridge. Another chronically last-minute shopper, he explained he has to wait for his wife to decide what she wants -- and tell him.
"Otherwise, we just get to come back to the store and return it," he said.
It wasn't just men at the malls -- big discounts and extended holiday hours brought all kinds of shoppers in from the bad weather. Jim Magidi and his wife, Ichien, of San Ramon, were at Stoneridge early Sunday to buy clothes for their three daughters.
"It looks like stores are giving more incentives to create some frenzy," Jim Magidi said.
The frenzy seems to have worked, and there were signs that the busy holiday season has taken a toll. Shoppers slumped on every available mall bench or chair, their laps piled high with shopping bags.
One customer at Macy's in Stoneridge, collapsed on a chair with a pile of clothes, saying with a wave of her hand, "I'm done."
But others couldn't get enough of the Christmas cheer, with carols spilling from speakers and Santa displays mobbed with children donning their Sunday best.
Carrie and Jon Spurlock, of San Ramon, brought their 2-year-old son to see Santa at Stoneridge early Sunday morning. Carrie Spurlock said the family tries to avoid malls around the holidays, but "then we woke up today and realized that Henry hadn't seen Santa."
At Stanford Shopping Center, carolers kept a tune while huddled beneath awnings, and a brass band played through the rain. Although she had finished her shopping, Greta Goth, of Portola Valley, visited the mall to walk her dog, Bogie, and enjoy the sights and sounds.
"We're walking between the raindrops and enjoying every minute of it," Goth said.
After all of the bad news this year, she said, everyone could use some Christmas cheer: "Everybody's smiling, and it's been a long time since we've had something to smile about."
Roger Kohl has more of a reason to smile this year. The Benicia resident got a job as a technician manager in August after being unemployed for almost two years and losing his home. Shopping Sunday, he said he was happy to have an income to buy gifts for his kids.
"We're blessed," he said. "It's going to be a great Christmas."
Mercury News staff writer John Woolfolk contributed to this story. Contact Heather Somerville at 925-977-8418. Follow her at Twitter.com/heathersomervil.