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Shoppers head to stores for next round
Bargain hunters brave crowds with Christmas cash, gift cards
Dana Blackwell fills a shopping cart with after Christmas bargains for sale Friday morning at Target in Gainesville. Taking advantage of after Christmas bargains on holiday items is popular for those looking to save some money for next year’s season.

The day after Christmas is traditionally one of the biggest shopping days of the year, and many went out Friday in search of bargains.

Dale Powell, manager of JC Penny in Gainesville’s Lakeshore Mall, said his store was packed Friday.

"There’s more than I thought would be out," Powell said. "We have actually come very close to doubling our day from the day after Christmas last year."

Lisa Lassiter, regional vice president and store manager for Belk, said Friday her store also was more crowded than it was the day after Christmas in 2007.

"There is more traffic, more customers in the store than last year, no doubt," Lassiter said.

She said she noticed people were returning items as well as buying things with Christmas money or redeeming gift cards.

There were a few incentives to draw customers in to JC Penny, including deals on holiday items and coupons for $10 off a $50 purchase and $15 off a $75 purchase.

"I don’t know what caused people to come out and shop today," Powell said Friday. "We probably will do more business (Friday) than we did the day before Christmas."

Lassiter said at Belk there were some "deeper" sales Friday than before Christmas.

Christmas merchandise was 75 percent off and some items, such as sweaters and other winterwear were 50 to 60 percent off.

But items at other stores were not marked down much after Christmas.

"There may be some items that are less, but overall I would say that pricing is pretty close to what it was just a few days before Christmas," Powell said.

Nationally many stores may have seen the crowds but not made the sales. Many shoppers were on the hunt for big bargains on specific items or hoping to return unwanted gifts, not looking to splurge.

Other markets saw lighter crowds than usual, and analysts said traffic appeared to be lighter than in years past.

The crowd at Target, 514 Shallowford Road in Gainesville, wasn’t much bigger than normal on Friday.

Target employee Tara Goodine said a large number of people in the store already were thinking about next Christmas.

"We’ve been really busy with after Christmas purchases," Goodine said. "Anything holiday we’re selling a lot of."

Christmas ornaments, lights and gift wrap were hot items today at Target, where they were marked down 50 percent.

But over at customer service, it was business as usual. Few people were in line to return their gifts at noon.

"It actually hasn’t been bad with returns," Goodine said.

Goodine expects the store will stay relatively busy over the next few days.

"It’s been a good amount of guest traffic," Goodine said. "It’s probably going to be pretty busy throughout the day and hopefully the weekend."

Dana Blackwell was looking at ornaments Friday at Target. Her birthday falls on the day after Christmas, and she said she typically spends it out shopping.

"We make a day out of it," Blackwell said. "It’s a traditional kind of thing for our family."

Kathy Tunnell planned to spend Friday shopping with her daughter, and found that the crowds weren’t overwhelming.

"It’s not bad," she said.

Tunnell said she planned on returning several gifts and doing some additional shopping.

"It sounded very appealing, with the way they’re talking about prices being cut," Tunnell said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.