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Published: Thursday, 12/27/2012 - Updated: 2 years ago

Snowstorm in region nips big shopping day

Former Toledoan Mandi Dillin of Los Angeles, left, and Sara Matuszewski of Toledo speak about shopping as they wait for coffee at Westfield Franklin Park mall Wednesday. Former Toledoan Mandi Dillin of Los Angeles, left, and Sara Matuszewski of Toledo speak about shopping as they wait for coffee at Westfield Franklin Park mall Wednesday.
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Traditionally one of the busiest shopping days of the year, the day after Christmas also ended up the snowiest of the year so far, something that seemed to thin crowds somewhat at Toledo retailers.

Many of those who did venture out Wednesday to make exchanges, scoop up discounted merchandise, or do some belated Christmas shopping were out early to try to beat the storm.

“We’re trying to get in, grab a quick bite to eat, and get out before the snow comes,” Toledoan Sara Matuszewski said while waiting for coffee at a stand inside Westfield Franklin Park mall.

Along with coffee on Ms. Matuszewski’s list: cashing in J-Bucks at the Justice store and getting snow boots.

She was shopping with longtime friend Mandi Dillin, who grew up in Toledo but now lives in Los Angeles. Ms. Dillin said she had a few last-minute gifts to buy.

Toledoan Ryan Osier was at the mall carrying a large Macy’s bag. He said he had a couple of coats to exchange before visiting Meijer and Walmart to complete his return mission.

Ryan Osier, who was exchanging coats, found Wednesday's lighter crowd more laid back than the pre-Christmas shoppers. Ryan Osier, who was exchanging coats, found Wednesday's lighter crowd more laid back than the pre-Christmas shoppers.
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He said he didn’t mind getting out to make a few returns and get a few good deals.

“I think people are a little more laid back than they were a couple days ago.”

The mall was busier than on an average Wednesday, but crowds weren’t unmanageable. Julie Heigel, director of marketing at Westfield Franklin Park, said she expected more shoppers on what most retailers say is the third busiest day of the year.

Ms. Heigel wondered aloud if instant access to photo messages and emailed shopping lists has helped shoppers get it right the first time.

“I think people are more informed shoppers than they’ve ever been able to be because of technology,” she said. “Maybe more people are getting it right.”

Still, the National Retail Federation predicts $62.7 billion worth of holiday merchandise will be returned.

A survey commissioned by FedEx found more than a third of Americans receiving holiday gifts expected to make at least one return.

At Bass Pro Shops, the day-after-Christmas traffic is generally driven by gift card sales. At the company’s Rossford store, general manager Jarron Ritchie said sales were a little behind normal for a Wednesday.

“We’re going to be slow until this weekend,” he said. “I think the weather will divert a lot of that traffic.”

Mr. Ritchie said the store sold significantly more gift cards this year than last, and did well overall.

“We had a phenomenal year,” he said. “I really can’t talk numbers, but our foot traffic was huge. We saw a very big lift in that, and that’s good.”

Other local stores also said Wednesday that the holiday season has been good to them.

Jim Grzywinski, general manager of Appliance Center in Maumee, said Wednesday’s business was decent but was hurt somewhat by the weather. Overall, though, the holiday shopping season went very well, he said.

“We’re up a little bit over last year. Traffic seems to be not a lot higher, but there were a few more people,” Mr. Grzywinski said. “We’ve got more retailers in the marketplace and it cuts the pie up into more pieces. But we do a lot of things that a lot of other places don’t do.”

The weekend after Christmas is typically busy for Appliance Center, although the number of people bringing in returns has dropped in recent years.

“People are pretty well schooled in knowing what they want when they come in to buy things, especially in electronics,” he said.

Gary and Molly Fitzpatrick, who own two Learning Express stores in metro Toledo and a third in Ann Arbor, also reported a good year.

“Things went well,” Mr. Fitzpatrick said. “We were up in all three of our stores, probably a little more than we’d forecast.”

They said their sales were strong up to the last shopping day, helped in part by an old toy born anew.

Ms. Fitzpatrick said the three stores sold 600 to 700 Spirograph drawing toys in just over a week after the Michigan company producing the toy got them to the shelves just in time for Christmas.

Of course, the snow that kept some shoppers away from some stores Wednesday also drummed up a little extra business at others.

At The Andersons General Store on Talmadge Road, Stacey Murray of Toledo loaded a cart with wrapping paper and discounted Christmas decor — along with snow shovels and ice melter.

“Usually we’re just coming out for the regular shopping but because of the storm we decided we’d grab a few things just so we had them,” she said.

John Kowalski, the store’s general manager, said it had been busy selling snow shovels, rock salt, and insulated overalls.

Going into the day, the store had 100 pallets of rock salt. “It would not be uncommon for me to go through every bit of that,” Mr. Kowalski said.

Contact Tyrel Linkhorn at: tlinkhorn@theblade.com or 419-724-6134.

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