DEARBORN, Mich. – Shoppers armed with newly obtained gift cards and poorly greeted presents returned to malls and stores in search of returns, post-Christmas discounts and fresh merchandise.
The day after Christmas offered merchants another shot at getting consumers to open their wallets, with retailers hoping customers would be lured by sales and come to spend their gift cards, which are recorded as sales only after they are redeemed.
According to ShopperTrak RCT Corp., the week after Christmas accounted for 10 percent of holiday sales last year, but analysts expect the post-holiday period could account for as much as 14 percent this year, given the increasing popularity of the cards.
At a Best Buy (BBY) in Okemos, Erik Sellen used a $40 gift card and a bit of his own money to buy three DVDs — "Gotti," "The Usual Suspects," "A Few Good Men" — and a Johnny Cash CD. The 23-year-old Holt resident said the gift card was nice because it let him pick exactly what he wanted.
Mary Padgett in the Fairlane Town Center in Dearborn said she was taking advantage of sales to stock up on Christmas decorations and gifts for next year. She said she had been bracing herself for big crowds but was pleasantly surprised.
"It's been nice so far — easy parking," Padgett, 63, said as she browsed a display of Christmas decorations at a JCPenney store, where much of the merchandise was 50 or 60 percent off the regular price.
"I needed some things I asked for but didn't get," said Troy Holcomb, 30, who stopped at a Target and Best Buy in Okemos to pick up some DVDs with money he got as a gift. He left with, among other things, a Looney Tunes collection.
In an effort to prop up profits, a growing number of stores such as Coach, Target, and American Eagle Outfitters (AEOS) rolled out some spring merchandise while KB Toys was pushing new versions of Barbie and the funky Bratz dolls.
Consumer electronic chains such as Best Buy were highlighting CDs, DVDs and video games in their advertising, counting on shoppers to feed the gadgets they received for the holiday.
Online sites such as overstock.com and buy.com were courting customers Monday with free shipping deals and deeper discounts, though online shopping has been a bright spot in the season.
Jerry Steward, 35, of Detroit, said he wasn't looking for anything in particular as he browsed in KB Toys in Fairlane. But he predicted he would spend about $200 Monday on gifts for his wife and children, even though he already gave them their main Christmas presents.
"This is just something I do every year because I know things are going to be on sale," he said.
Michael P. Niemira, chief economist at the International Council of Shopping Centers, expects that 20 percent of gift card holders will redeem their cards this week.
Karen MacDonald, a spokeswoman at Taubman Centers Inc., which operates or owns 23 malls in 11 states, reported that 25 percent of those redeeming gift cards Monday were spending over the value of the card.
A steady stream of foot traffic stormed through Atlantic Station, an upscale outdoor shopping complex a stone's throw from downtown Atlanta. Its stores unfurled bright red banners that promised of clearance sales to entice shoppers to drop in. A Gap store advertised an end of season sale with signs that read: "Instant Gratification: Use your giftcard."
Jahanda Simmons and her toddler daughter, Jordan, gushed over the deal she found at clothing retailer Old Navy: A $44 children's wool jacket for $21. "The sales are always better after Christmas," the proud mother said.