After taking Christmas Day off for the most part, shoppers returned to area stores Wednesday in search of better-fitting presents, discounted holiday items and merchandise to acquire with their gift cards and cash they received for the holiday.
For people like Marietta resident Tedd Wilson, 62, it was a matter of necessity - swapping a sweater for his wife for the right size at Peebles in Marietta. But that was the only shopping on his agenda Wednesday.
"My list was small so the exchanges are smaller," he said.
EVAN BEVINS The Marietta Times
Marietta resident Diane Britton, left, hands a card to Peebles supervisor Robert Roux Wednesday as she exchanges some gifts for her husband for different sizes.
A short time later, Luann Ayers, 50, and her niece, Aimee Morrison, 40, were at Kmart in Marietta, one of many stops on the itinerary for their traditional day-after-Christmas shopping excursion. The Parkersburg residents said they usually target stores in Marietta because they tend to be less congested than their counterparts in Parkersburg and Vienna.
Their trip was as much about fun as it was finding bargains on holiday-themed items.
"Just acting like fools," laughed Morrison as she took a cell phone video of a stuffed Mickey and Minnie Mouse dancing and singing nearly in unison to a Christmas carol on a discount shelf at the store.
By the numbers
3 to 4 percent - Forecasted growth of sales of electronics, clothing, jewelry and home goods November and December from 2011 to this year.
0.7 percent - Actual growth.
4 to 5 percent - Growth from 2010 to 2011.
15 percent - Amount of a retailer's December sales that can come in the last week of the month.
Source: The Associated Press.
"Out in public," her aunt added.
While the traffic isn't as heavy as on the days leading up to Christmas, Dec. 26 tends to be a busy shopping day.
"We expect just as much traffic as we would 10 days before Christmas," said Summer Mason, manager at Peebles. "People do most of their exchanges and gift card use the first 14 days" after Dec. 25.
The last week of December can account for as much as 15 percent of the month's sales, Michael McNamara, vice president for research and analysis at MasterCard Advisors SpendingPulse, told the Associated Press. And some retailers could be looking for a boost after holiday spending nationwide grew by just 0.7 percent compared to last year - less than the 3 to 4 percent analysts predicted and the worst rate since 2008, during the Great Recession.
Bad weather, including Superstorm Sandy, and uncertainty about the economy with the fiscal cliff-hanger still unresolved were blamed by some analysts. Others suggested the mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., cast a pall on the latter days of the holiday shopping season.
Cat Bigley, owner of S.W.A.G.G. on Front Street in Marietta, said business was good for her shop, with steady traffic even before Thanksgiving all the way up to busy days Sunday and Monday.
"I would say that we were probably up just a little bit this year," she said.
Bigley said the growth numbers are watched more by "big-box stores" and for jobs information. For S.W.A.G.G., a small business that sells a variety of items, the growth experienced was only positive.
"We've got people who come here first, second and last, so it's not like we've got to go out and find them anymore," she said.
On Wednesday morning, most of Bigley's customers had been from out of town, visiting family in the area. She expects to see gift certificates redeemed this week, but not many returns.
Goldline Jewelers owner Tom Hockenbrocht said he was surprised by how much business he saw Wednesday given the freezing rain that fell. Several people came in to have rings or watches they got for Christmas sized properly, while some had exchanges that often resulted in an "upgrade sale," he said.
"They came back and exchanged it for exactly what they wanted," Hockenbrocht said.
Newport resident Robin Haught, 50, went to Kmart Wednesday to spend some time with her mother, Arlene Arnett, and to stock up on items for decorations and gift bags for her kindergarten class at Washington Elementary School next year.
"It's always nice to open up a box next Dec. 1 and find all these things I've gotten for my classroom," she said.
But Marietta resident Marcus Kimbrough, 24, only entered the store on the way to more Christmas celebrating with in-laws due to errors in gift-giving.
"I got my wife the wrong-sized shirt for one, and she really just (didn't) want the pants," he said with a laugh.
Oak Grove resident Sarah Beardsely, 75, didn't have anything to return; she was hunting bargains at Peebles.
"I'm living by myself now," she said, adding that one reason she went shopping Wednesday was to "just go, get out of the house a little bit."
Visiting family in her native Marietta for the holidays, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., resident Lisa Walsh, 43, stopped by Peebles to use a gift card she'd received. Otherwise, the sales alone wouldn't be enough to draw her out so soon after doing her Christmas shopping.
"Typically, we don't go out because I'm kind of shopped out at this point," she said.
The Associated Press contributed.