First Posted: 12/26/2008
Christmas may be over, but that doesnt mean stores are anywhere near being empty.
In fact, the days following Christmas can be just as busy as the ones preceding the holiday.
Shoppers flocked to stores Friday for the traditional day-after-Christmas business of exchanging or returning gifts and cashing in prepaid gift cards.
Teresa Padgett, the assistant store manager at Wal-Mart on Rockford Street, said while there have been plenty of customers returning items Friday, there were just as many taking advantage of the after-holiday sales.
Its been steady and wide open, Padgett said. People are not only returning, they are purchasing.
To help alleviate some of the overflow of customers returning or exchanging merchandise, Wal-Mart dedicated about four of its 20 registers to doing refunds only, which Padgett said makes the process easier.
We havent had any upset customers, were happy and everybodys been pleasant, she said.
At other local stores, returns are a relative rarity like the home furnishing and decor store, Something Different, according to one of its buyers, David Simmons.
Its not often that people return merchandise, he said, adding that the store typically handles exchanges since it only gives out store credits.
Simmons also said that the customer traffic was less active Friday than last year, but credits it to the slow economy.
Its like everybody knew it was a recession, but once the government said it, you could really see the difference (in the shopping,) he said.
Peggy Wagoner and her stepdaughter, Kara Lewis, went out shopping for after-holiday sales, and both said they also realized traffic was slimmer than last year. They summed it up as a result of the lagging economy and said they too cut back on spending this holiday season.
I think the economy affected the holiday season, Lewis said. I didnt buy as much as I did last year, and I cut back on the number of people I bought gifts for.
Lorrie Riccitello, the owner of Meadows of Dan Trading Co. at 192 N. Main St., said this year it seemed she had less customers following Christmas than last year, but considered the overall turnout to have gone well.
Its been a really, really good day, she said Friday. Weve had more sales than exchanges or returns.
Riccitello said she believes customers have become familiar with her store and the way it handles Christmas before and after sales.
We try to work with the customers when theyre buying gifts for other people, she said. We have a consistency people have come to know.
Riccitello said that consistency includes allowing customers to return gifts up to 30 days after Christmas with receipts, and maintaining weekend hours that allow them to exchange or obtain a refund immediately.
The pace was quicker at some other downtown stores, like Mayberry Consignments, which had a larger crowd of customers than its owner Julie Teague anticipated.
Weve actually been a lot busier than expected for this time of year, Teague said. She suggested the increase was related to the tough economy, which has probably encouraged people to shop locally and in consignment stores rather than huge department stores elsewhere.
Even though all sales at her store are final, Teague suggests that customers planning to return or exchange remain patient and wear comfortable shoes.
If you are going to go out, know its going to be a mess with all the return lines, she said. The sooner you go out the better.
Contact Erin C. Perkins at [email protected] or 719-1952.