Shoppers pack the mall looking for deals


After-Christmas sales are advertised outside of JCPenney in the Oaks Mall in Gainesville, Fla. the day after Christmas, a busy shopping day for gift returns and holiday sales, Thursday, December 26, 2013.

Erica Brough/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Thursday, December 26, 2013 at 6:29 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, December 26, 2013 at 6:29 p.m.

Christmas may be over, but the deals at The Oaks Mall are not. On Thursday, the mall's parking lot was full as shoppers from around the region took advantage of several store sales.

Red discount stickers shone brightly through store windows, several saying 50 percent and 60 percent off selected merchandise. But aside from the large discounts, most people were coming to The Oaks Mall for exchanges, not returns, said Crystal Miner, the cosmetics manager at Dillard's.

"It's light traffic today," Miner said. "Tomorrow is actually the busiest time for exchanges after Christmas."

She added that there were more last-minute shoppers this year closer to the holidays, and that most people shopping at Dillard's on Thursday were buying marked-down holiday decorations.

The Better Business Bureau advised on its website that for easier returns this holiday, customers should ask stores about their return policy and for a gift receipt to enclose with the gift. The website also said people should not assume that regular return policies apply to sale or clearance items, they should ask retailers about restocking fees, and they should look for a posted return policy when shopping online. The BBB also advised customers to use common-sense practices like saving receipts.

Several retailers also echoed Miner's belief that this year there are more exchanges going on than returns.

Danielle Prinz, an employee at Artsy Abode Boutique, said a lot of customers came in for exchanges, but that the store had not had as many customers as it had hoped. Prinz said she expected the day after Christmas to be more hectic, but it had been pretty normal.

"You get to see the other, angry, hidden side of people when we can't exchange or return something," she laughed.

Several with coffee cup in hand, customer after customer roamed the mall looking for the best deals. Some at the mall weren't returning gifts — they were buying new ones for friends, family members and themselves. It was Manven Atwel's day off work, but instead of resting, she said she came to shop with her friend because the deals were so good.

According to ShopperTrak, U.S. stores had a problem getting Americans to spend this year, with the number of holiday shoppers decreasing 21.2 percent during the week that ended on Sunday compared with last year. As for the whole holiday shopping season, ShopperTrak predicts that sales will be up 2 percent to $218.4 billion compared with last year.

Other store employees echoed Atwel's sentiments and said many of their customers came in looking for discounted prices. Sabrina Jude, an employee at Bath and Body Works, said that while people come for the daily deals on the 26th, they tend to save their exchanges for the 27th.

Donna Livingston, who was shopping for 10 grandkids, said the mall seemed as busy Thursday as it was the day before Christmas. Livingston had a hard time finding parking and believes it was because so many stores, like Hollister, were offering huge deals.

"It's crazy in Hollister," she said. "I was waiting in line longer to pay for my stuff than it had taken me to find what I wanted."

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