Day-after-Christmas shopping matches rest of holiday season: Subdued shoppers seeking shocking sales

Day-after-Christmas shopping matches rest of holiday season: Subdued shoppers seeking shocking sales

Dec. 26–SAN JOSE — The day-after-Christmas, traditionally a frenzied day of deal-seeking shoppers dashing from store to store, mall to mall, had a subdued beginning. At 7 a. m. Wednesday, parking lots at the mammoth Westfield Valley Fair mall in San Jose were virtually empty.

Perhaps it was because the holiday arrived midweek this year, making it tough for hordes of shopping bag holders to skip work for the malls. Perhaps a season of shopping deals, which began with round-the-clock markdowns on Thanksgiving Day, left many consumers shopped out and not in the mood to brave early-morning rains to scan more clothes racks.

Whatever the reason, many stores were left with more employees milling around than customers — at least in the early shopping hours.

To be sure, there were deals to be had. Stores like Talbots, Macy’s and Nordstrom had slash-downs aplenty. Retail analysts warned that stores that live by the deals in the run-up to Christmas run the risk of turning consumers into full-time sales-shoppers. That appeared to be true at least for a number of shoppers at Valley Fair on Wednesday.

“Sixty percent off — you see that before Christmas,” said unenthused shopper Beth Manlapaz, a San Jose nursing home supervisor who showed up at Valley Fair mostly to window-shop. “It’s not that much different from previous sales. ”

Her friend and co-worker Mary Solis said she was there to shop — but selectively.

“I’m just looking around to see what’s nice and cheap,” said Solis, eating a crepe before hitting the stores.

Alex Roberts, a junior at San Diego State University, joined her sister and mother for their annual post-holiday trip to the mall. This year, she said, the deals seemed less enticing.

“There were more deals before Christmas,” she said. “So there aren’t good ones after Christmas. ”

Said sister Heather, who did not want to give her last name: “It used to be you’d have to line up to get in. The whole mall used to be packed. ”

Retailers typically take in about 15 percent of their December sales in the final week of the month, according to Michael McNamara, vice president for research and analysis at MasterCard Advisors SpendingPulse. However, retailers may be hoping for more this year: McNamara’s group released its first reading of holiday sales Tuesday, and they were disappointing for retailers.

Sales of electronics, clothing, jewelry and home goods in the two months before Christmas increased less than 1 percent from 2012, far below the growth of 3 percent to 4 percent for which retailers had hoped. The year-over-year growth of 0. 7 percent is the worst MasterCard Advisors SpendingPulse has tracked since 2008, when the recession caused consumers to sharply rein in their spending.

A number of early-morning shoppers at Valley Fair were not there to spend fresh money, however: Many said they made their way to the mall to use gift cards, and others came to return shoes and shirts that didn’t fit their size or taste.

“I had a couple of returns and my wife wanted to go shopping,” said Kevin Anderson, as he strolled through the nearly empty hallways of the mall.

By 9 a. m. , though, the lots began to slowly fill up and the lines at Starbucks stretched to the door.

Patricia Kruse, a Cupertino school administrator, came to the mall with her husband to return some shoes — he brought back a pair of Cole Haan shoes purchased at full price at Macy’s. They then bought a pair of the same brand at a dramatically lower cost at Nordstrom.

“Now we are going to look at what else is on sale,” she said.

Kruse said she cruised the aisles of stores known for pricey goods, such as Talbots, where many items were marked 40 percent off.

“The retailers have set expectations,” she said, noting many shoppers now only want to pull out their wallets when big discounts are offered.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Contact John Boudreau at 408-278-3496; follow him at Twitter. com/svwriter.