Looking for day-after bargains

ALPENA – Although Dec. 26 traditionally has been considered a day when millions of people flood shopping malls to return unwanted Christmas gifts, the practice seems to be dying out. Instead, people were hitting stores to buy what they wanted with gift cards.

At Walmart, only a few residents were returning gifts, Store Manager Mark Bayliss said Thursday.

“People get gift cards now so our returns aren’t like they used to be,” he said.

As a result, the store stocked up on items for Thursday, such as electronic games and other items youth might like, he said.

Jesus Yruegas of Mikado was at Walmart to take advantage of 50 percent discounts on Christmas items. He filled his cart with wrapping paper, plastic plates and strings of lights. Yruegas also stocked up on other discounted items, which he will auction off March 2014 to raise money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, he said.

Still, there was a line at the store’s customer service desk, where Naomi Potter was returning a Nerf Rebelle plastic bow and foam dart set. Her only reason was because the bow string was broken, she said. She wanted to exchange it for a replacement.

Potter got cash back, per Walmart policy, and was told to check the store’s aisles for the same toy.

In downtown Alpena, returns also were at low levels.

“Every brand runs different sizes,” said Megan Grochowski, a sales associate at Masters-Lalonde Shoes on Second Avenue.

As of 2 p.m., only three people had come in to exchange shoes they had received as gifts, looking for a better fit.

At The Marketplace @ Alpena on Chisholm Street, Manager Rissa Budnick said there had been very few returns or exchanges. However, the store had a successful holiday season. The front of the business even looked a little bare as customers snapped up the last of the holiday decor at half price.

Budnick said she is busy restocking, and the store’s owner is already planning shopping trips to buy inventory for next Christmas.

At Blue Phoenix Books, customers were using gift cards to make purchases, said Store Manager Sara Grochowski. Otherwise, returns were at a minimum.

People knew exactly what they were looking for when they shopped at the store for Christmas gifts, Grochowski said. Some also ordered books through the store’s computer system to get exactly what they wanted.

“I was expecting it to be completely dead this morning, but a lot of people were off work spending the day in downtown Alpena just browsing,” she said.

Betsy Lehndorff can be reached via email at blehndorff@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5693. Follow Betsy on Twitter @bl_alpenanews.