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Shoppers return with cards, exchanges
Merchants eye busy weekend
Target gift cards es
Retailers like Target are expecting shoppers to use their holiday gift cards this weekend. - photo by Emily Saunders
Return tips

The National Retail Federation’s tips for stress-free returns after the holidays:

1. Know the retailer’s return policy. Gift-givers should take note of them. If policies are not displayed, ask a sales associate or a manager for help. Most retailers also outline their return policy on their Web sites.

2. Save and file all receipts. Make sure to provide the recipient with a gift receipt. Receipts are key to hassle-free returns. Some retailers will allow consumers to exchange merchandise without a receipt, but often will provide only merchandise credit for the lowest markdown price.

3. Provide original packaging and all tags and parts with a gift. Some retailers won’t accept returns unless the item is in its original package. If you plan to take back a gift after it is unwrapped, resist the urge to open or play with it.

4. Be patient. Remember, the week after Christmas is one of the busiest times of the year. People’s frustration levels are high and their tolerance low.
The days after Christmas likely will be merry and bright for area retailers.

It may not be the heaviest shopping weekend of the year, but Christmas weekend will draw droves of shoppers hunting bargains, using gift cards and making returns.

“The Saturday before Christmas is always a big day and the day after Christmas is always a big day,” said John Heavener, president of the Georgia Retail Association.

“People are out looking for those bargains. They’re out trying to use those gift cards and they’re out spending the cash they got for Christmas.”

Cris Willis is counting on it.

“It’s one of our busiest days of the year. We always look forward to the day after Christmas,” said Willis, owner of Parsons Gifts and Collectibles in Cumming’s Lakeland Plaza.

Like many retailers statewide, Willis said she plans to mark down items to avoid inventory tax on those remaining after Jan. 1.

“We start clearing out a lot of our merchandise because we do inventory right after,” she said. “We’re trying to get rid of it so we don’t have to count it.”

Parsons already has many sale items, as does the Super Target on Market Place Boulevard in Cumming.   

Christmas trees and ornaments are on clearance, though store manager Steve Reid expects to see crowds for other reasons after the holiday.

“With [Christmas] falling on a weekend, I’m sure there will be a lot more shopping and a lot more traffic this year,” he said.

Reid also expects many customers returning with their retail gift cards, for which Target is the largest issuer.

“The biggest trend we see in after-Christmas sales is in redemption of gift cards,” he said. “A lot of children now get gift cards and a lot of guests get [them].”

Children tend to use their gift cards on video games and toys.

The popularity of gift cards has typically gone up each year, though Heavener said the trend could be leveling out, given the economy.

“We’re not seeing as many this year,” he said. “People are more conscious about that. They’re looking for bargains and spending their money on bargains, rather than gift cards.”

Bargains may be big this year, but so is fraud.

In tough economic times, Heavener said, there an increase in fraud as “people get desperate and do things they wouldn’t otherwise do in good times.”

Retailers are keeping more of a watchful eye, especially when it comes to returns.

“People are going to have to have receipts lots of times,” he said. “We’ll probably be looking at it more seriously this year, so it may take longer than usual to return things.”

Shoppers may not enjoy the lines and returns could hurt retailers, but Willis sees the post-Christmas rush differently. People exchanging or returning merchandise can end up being customers.

“It gets people in the store,” she said of returns. “And when they come back in, they might find something else they want.”