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Published: Monday, 12/27/2004

Bargain hunters scout for deals

BY JANE SCHMUCKER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
At Westfield Shoppingtown Franklin Park, shoppers flock to take advantage of day-after-Christmas sales. At Westfield Shoppingtown Franklin Park, shoppers flock to take advantage of day-after-Christmas sales.
LISA DUTTON / BLADE Enlarge

It's been years since Ric Powell has walked into a store on a day reputed to be as busy as the day after Thanksgiving.

But waking up for a second morning far from home and without his luggage convinced him to go to the Target store on Monroe Street in search of "unmentionables" as the West Toledo strip geared up for the year's last huge shopping day.

"It's an extreme, drastic occasion to get me into a store on such a day," he said.

Many retailers, who slashed prices with the hope of squeezing more out of what appears to be an unimpressive holiday season, saw yesterday as an extreme, drastic occasion too.

"We treat this almost as big as the day after Thanksgiving," said Chris Tierney, general manager of Best Buy on Monroe Street, where more than 30 people waited in checkout lines yesterday afternoon.

Last year, the day after Christmas was the third-biggest shopping day of the yearnationwide. At Westfield Shoppingtown Franklin Park, the area's largest mall, the number of shoppers on the day after Christmas was close behind the two busiest days: the Saturday before Christmas and the day after Thanksgiving.

But mall spokesman Kurt Pollex was uncertain where the day would rank this year because it fell on a Sunday.

Total day-after-Christmas sales might be down, he said, because the mall closed at 7 p.m. - instead of the weekday closing time of 9 - and church services were expected to pull away some shoppers.

Bargains such as 50-percent-off jewelry attracted shoppers to stores. Nationwide, retailers drastically reduced their prices with the hope of padding out their bottom lines after what appears to be a lackluster holiday sales season. Bargains such as 50-percent-off jewelry attracted shoppers to stores. Nationwide, retailers drastically reduced their prices with the hope of padding out their bottom lines after what appears to be a lackluster holiday sales season.
LISA DUTTON / BLADE Enlarge

On the other hand, he said, numbers might be stronger because more people had the day off.

Rhonda Zmudzinski, who was at Gen's Hallmark in Westgate Village Shopping Center, was such a shopper.

She's a mail carrier and usually works on the day after Christmas. But this year she was looking for thank-you notes - about 50 people on her West Toledo route gave her cookies or other gifts - and "enjoying the craziness."

Bumper-to-bumper parking lots, beeping horns, and long lines were less crazy than what was waiting at home for some shoppers.

Julie Byczynski took her 7-year-old niece, Nicole, to Barnes & Noble Booksellers because her brother had stomach flu symptoms and she wanted to reduce their exposure.

At Linda Bellman's West Toledo house, her daughter was engaging everyone in a family art project when Ms. Bellman took a quick break to begin her annual search for bargains for next Christmas.

"We have to help the economy one more little bit," she said with a smile as a clerk volunteered to help her carry her many purchases to her vehicle.

What stores really needed, however, were shoppers like Catrise Moore of the Old West End who said she typically shops on the day after Christmas - after paying full price for toys, clothes, and shoes earlier in the season.

Even early in the season, mainstream U.S. retailers sold many items at well below sticker price in an effort to bolster unimpressive holiday sales during the vital Thanksgiving-to-Christmas period, which accounts for 23 percent of annual U.S. retail sales.

Yesterday, many cut prices further, even though the holiday shopping season just now is getting into the final stretch.

"In past years, the week after Christmas has accounted for 10 percent of holiday traffic," said Scott Krugman, a spokesman for the National Retail Federation. "Now it's worth about 20 percent because gift cards play such an important role."

Many stores that normally open later on Sundays tried to entice extra business by opening earlier yesterday. Kmart and Meijer opened at 6 a.m.; Linens-N-Things, Target, Kohl's, and JC Penney opened at 7 a.m.; and Franklin Park mall opened at 8.

Marshall Field's upper-end department store advertised savings of up to 80 percent. Rite Aid Pharmacies offered GE light bulbs and Quick Tite Super Glue free after rebate. Many stores promoted plastic containers and other storage items to "pack up the holidays," as Target advertised.

The full picture for the holiday shopping season won't be known until Jan. 6, when the nation's retailers are to report their December sales figures.

This report includes information from The Blade's wire services.

Contact Jane Schmucker at: jschmucker@theblade.com or 419-337-7780.



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