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Shoppers Scurry After Bargains

December 27, 1997

PASADENA, Calif. (AP) _ The gifts have all been ripped open. Relatives are dozing in a post-Christmas haze. And the holiday tree is starting to shed its needles.

So the nation’s shoppers feasted on that other popular holiday tradition: shopping. They flocked to stores Friday, getting a big head start on the 1998 holiday season and making the best of what retailers have said was a disappointing one this year.

At the Stats decorating store in Pasadena, people lined up early in chill before dawn to buy half-price holiday decorations, wrappings and knicknacks _ an annual day-after-Christmas affair at the store. Gawkers come by to gaze at the wall-to-wall displays of trees and ornaments.

``I don’t like the crowds but it’s been sort of an annual event,″ said Val Toms of San Marino. ``I always come here for the ribbons, most especially.″

The store was filled with the sound of Christmas carols and crowd chatter _ and festooned with garlands, miniature snow scenes and thousands of tiny twinkling lights.

Reluctant shoppers Ron Evans, 43, of Azusa and Jesse Stenger, 60, of Covina, tried to stay out of the crowd’s way as their wives hunted for bargains.

Others were grabbing up bargains enthusiastically, savvy to the ways of retailers that slash prices only one day after last-minute Christmas shoppers paid full price.

Industry analysts said a robust economy and high consumer confidence failed to translate into strong holiday sales. Instead, many people stuck to a budget or spent on nontraditional gifts such as vacations and trips to spas.

That left stores brimming with merchandise that merchants hope to clear out.

``Money’s tight this year,″ said Ann Alicea, who went to Filene’s department store in Boston for her daughter’s holiday gifts. ``I really didn’t do much shopping before Christmas.″

At a Target store in Lincoln, Neb., employee Mark Evetovich said: ``You can’t see the tile anymore. People are packed in right now.″

Shoppers at a Foley’s department store in Dallas raced up the down escalators to get dibs on the discounted items.

``I hate malls. I hate shopping,″ said Carl Siegrist, who was in Milwaukee’s Grand Avenue mall. ``But some things I feel like I need to have, and if I can get them for 50 percent off the day after Christmas, I’ll do it. It’s a pure economic decision.″

Nicole Kearn arrived at Filene’s in Boston early, to put a gift certificate to good use.

``I’m here to do a little bit of returning and to check out the sales,″ she said.

As always, there were many happy returns.

Adrian Odoms waited for a Milwaukee Radio Shack to open so he could return the gift he bought his mom.

``I bought my mom a cell phone and my dad bought one too, so I’m going to pick her up something different,″ he said.

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