published Thursday, December 27th, 2012

Post-Christmas shoppers keep Chattanooga area stores busy

Sheathia Lee, left, returns gifts for her two children to guest service employee Bailey Roy while at the Target off Gunbarrel Road on Wednesday.
Sheathia Lee, left, returns gifts for her two children to guest service employee Bailey Roy while at the Target off Gunbarrel Road on Wednesday.
Photo by Dan Henry.

As customers lined up Wednesday at the service counter of Target on Gunbarrel Road to return clothes that didn't fit and toys that didn't work, Finley Knowles passed his women's red, footed pajamas to the clerk.

He said his wife gave him the pajamas as a joke.

"I told my wife a year ago when we were sitting around the house, 'Man, I want some footie pajamas,'" said Knowles, 52. "All she could find were women's."

Knowles was among a steady stream of customers pouring into Target, returning unwanted items and browsing the after-Christmas sales.

"We've had more people come in for the sales," said LaShara Carter, an executive team leader at Target.

Though it wasn't quite as busy as Black Friday, almost 100 people were standing at the door waiting to get in when the store opened at 7 a.m., Carter said.

Post-holiday sales may be the only way to salvage this holiday's shopping season, according to some analysts. Experts said several factors may have contributed to slumping sales, from fear of the "fiscal cliff" standoff in Washington, D.C., to a bleak national mood because of Hurricane Sandy and the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

This week, the MasterCard Advisors SpendingPulse, a national report that tracks spending on popular holiday items, said holiday sales in the two months leading up to Christmas rose by less than 1 percent from last year.

This percentage is much lower than the 3 to 4 percent increase analysts had predicted, and the biggest slump since 2008, according to The Associated Press.

Target seemed to be benefiting from its post-holiday sales, with many shelves empty and items out of stock.

Despite that, some said stores were not as busy this year as they have been in the past.

"The crowds aren't quite as bad," said Lorraine Frazier, 50, who is from Memphis, but visiting family in Chattanooga. "That's probably bad for [Target], but good for me."

In the back corner of the store, aisles were packed as customers grabbed Christmas items, including trees and ornaments, that had been greatly reduced.

Felicia Neese, 27, just moved into her own home and is planning ahead for Christmas 2013. She said she had been looking forward to the after-Christmas sale for more than a month.

The cart she shared with her mother, Teresa Davis, 59, was filled with at least five wrapping papers and a few other decorations.

"My mother owns 50 rolls [of wrapping paper], so I'm trying to catch up," she said.

Katie Thurman, 22, and Vijay Patel, 23, also planned to stock up on Christmas decorations for 2013 -- their first Christmas as a married couple, after their wedding in July.

"One of the first things we talked about was this," Thurman said. "We said, 'The Christmas after we get engaged, before we get married, we're going to go out and get Christmas stuff.'"

Thurman and Patel said they had the same taste and didn't have difficulty agreeing on the ornaments, though Patel wasn't sure about a reindeer ornament Thurman picked up.

"Do you like this one better?" she asked, holding up a bell. "If you don't like the deer we can put that one back."

Before Amy's Hallmark Store opened in Hamilton Place mall, customers were lined up outside the door to take advantage of the 40-percent-off collectible ornaments and other Christmas items.

"For us, this is our Black Friday," said Amber Clemmers, store manager.

The store already sold out of some ornaments, and expects to sell the rest over the next several days.

Suzanne Maxwell, 41, purchased 10 ornaments for friends and family members, including a Cinderella and Rapunzel for daughters of a friend.

"Later, when these children grow up, they'll have ornaments for their own tree," she said.

The tradition of shopping the day-after-Christmas sales brought many people, including Maxwell, into Hallmark and other mall stores.

Though his family wasn't with him at Hallmark, Harold "Bimbo" McCawley said they come every year.

"It's just tradition -- me, my daughter and my mother come," he said. "They hit almost every store."

about Rachel Bunn...

Rachel Bunn is originally from Ellijay, Ga., and graduated from the University of Georgia with degrees in magazines and history. While at UGA, she wrote for the student magazine UGAzine, served as news editor for the student newspaper, The Red & Black, and spent a semester studying British history at Oxford University in Oxford, England. She has previously worked at The Rockdale Citizen in Conyers, Ga., and The Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the ...

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