For malls and outlets, Dec. 26 holds on as shopping day
Waterford — The retail analytics company ShopperTrak in September projected Dec. 26 to be the eighth-busiest shopping day of the year. The National Retail Federation’s annual customer sentiment survey, released last week, showed that 51 percent of respondents said they will shop between Dec. 26 and Jan. 1.
For that window, 27 percent said they would shop to use gift cards they had received, while 17 percent said they would “return or exchange unwanted gifts.”
“I know a lot of people are using gift cards today, and today is really like their Christmas,” Crystal Mall Manager PJ Montesanti told The Day on Wednesday. He said the mall has “been busy nonstop” since Black Friday, and that this year has been a steady stream of traffic rather than one with spikes.
Except for Sears, increasingly bare as it offers 75 percent discounts ahead of its closure, most stores didn’t have long lines early Wednesday afternoon.
Themes that emerged among some store managers were that activity typically picks up later in the afternoon, and that day-after-Christmas shopping has dwindled in recent years with the rise of online sales. But takeaways vary based on what store you’re in or who you ask.
The bleakest take came from Alan Ward, manager at Sports & Things, who said this has been his slowest year so far. He has been doing this for 20 years, but the store has been open only seasonally for the past five.
“Amazon, the Internet is killing us,” he said. “Amazon, the Internet is killing malls.”
Chelsea Hitchings, assistant manager at Forever 21, said the morning wasn’t as busy as it usually is, speculating that was either due to nice weather or online shopping. Still, she said people were doing a lot of shopping with gift cards and noted there was a brand-new sale on Wednesday.
Hitchings said returns or exchanges tend to be more about the size than the style, and that the most popular items to be returned are jackets and jeans.
Browsing in Finish Line, Summer Nebelski and Breanna Shrewsbury, both 21, said they went shopping because they knew it would be cheaper, and then ended up buying candles, soap and sheets for their apartment.
“We come here, I would say often, and this is the busiest I’ve ever seen it,” Shrewsbury said.
Gilda Lancaster, on the other hand, was pleased that Wednesday was “mild” and that “the cashiers are less stressed.” Walking through Macy’s, she was partway through her process of exchanging items she bought for family members, before heading to Old Navy and Marshalls.
“Next time, gift cards,” she said with a smile. “I ain’t got time for none of this.”
One employee at Hollister quipped that his fellow workers refer to Dec. 26 as “the exchange day.” The store was lively early Wednesday afternoon, with lots of off-from-school teens passing through.
Erin Grenier, assistant general manager at the Tanger Outlets at Foxwoods, noted that the outlets stay open a little later in the few days after Christmas because schools are closed. She said the stores vary in their policies on exchanges and returns but noted that there have been a lot of gift card sales for the month of December.
Asked about the impact of online sales, Grenier said, “We’re part of Foxwoods Resort Casino property, so we find that our customers are more experiential.”
She pointed to two new attractions in Tanger Outlets: Spellbound Escape Rooms and Adventure Games, and the paint-your-own-pottery place Ready Glaze Fire.