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Published: 12/26/2010

Shoppers expected to be out in force for after-Christmas bargains

ATLANTA — The shopping marathon continues: Americans are hitting the malls to spend gift cards on whatever items Santa may have missed and pick up items on clearance.

A snowstorm headed up the East Coast is likely to crimp some plans. Washington, D.C., is expected to get 5 to 8 inches of snow. New York and New England could get even more Sunday and Monday.

Still, retailers are rolling out deals to attract shoppers back to stores. But bargains on the most desirable merchandise may be scarce.

“There will be good stuff on sale after Christmas but what you really wanted will be sold out,” Stifel Nicolas analyst Richard Jaffe said. “You wanted the sweater in blue, the prettiest color, and it's gone.”

That's exactly what happened to Lorraine McGrath. The 54-year-old wanted to pick up pajamas for her husband at JC Penney in New York first thing Sunday morning.

She was one of the first people in the store but couldn't find big-and-tall pajamas to fit her husband. Overall, she wasn't impressed with the after-Christmas discounts.

“To tell you the truth, there's no difference between Christmas sales and after anymore,” said McGrath, a registered nurse who lives in Manhattan.

Strong sales in the coming week would build on the highest-spending holiday season since 2007, which was a record year. Dec. 26-Jan. 1 makes up less than 10 percent of the Nov 1-Dec. 31 holiday season but accounts for more than 15 percent of holiday retail spending, research firm ShopperTrak says.Still, stores are expanding their hours and in some cases bringing in fresh merchandise to sell.

Discount chain Target Corp., which opened at 7 a.m., is offering $10 off video games like “Just Dance 2,” 50 percent off many DVD and Blu-ray movies and 30 percent or more off toys, including Lego sets.

Toys R Us is touting a $50 gift card with any $299.99 Xbox 360 250GB System and a $20 gift card with any $149.99 Nintendo DSi or $169.99 DSiXL.

J.C. Penney had 75 percent off gourmet candy, 60 percent off lambskin leather jackets, from $300 to $120, half-price velour hoodies at $17.99 and 25 percent off kitchen gadgets.

Kohl's Inc., which opened at 5 a.m., offered early bird specials until 1 p.m. including 50 percent to 60 percent off dress shirts for men.

Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst at market research firm NPD Group, said strong after-Christmas sales would be the icing on the holiday cake for retailers.

“They came into December having made money,” he said. “If December is prosperous, that will lead them to feel confident in 2011, and that's really what this last week is all about.”



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