‘Tis the season for bargains

Published 11:59 pm Friday, December 26, 2008

On what is being called the “new Black Friday,” local consumers opted to exchange merchandise instead of trading it in for cash this year, according to several local merchants.

Holiday sales – which typically account for 30 percent to 50 percent of a retailer’s annual total – have been less than jolly this year, and according to preliminary data from SpendingPulse, which tracks purchases paid for by credit card, checks or cash, retail sales fell between 5.5 percent and 8 percent during the holiday season compared with last year. Excluding auto and gas sales, they fell 2 percent to 4 percent, according to SpendingPulse.

However on Friday, Covington County residents hit the stores bright and early with purchasing power and exchanges in hand to do their part in turning those national figures around.

Irene Rogers, J.C. Penney store supervisor, said many of those exchanges were accompanied by even larger sales at the register.

“Our store manager told us this morning that our sales have been phenomenal,” Rogers said. “Instead of doing refunds for things they’ve brought back, they’re exchanging them and buying a lot more, too. We’re having a fantastic day.”

And it was a day that began early with doors opening at 5:30 a.m. with a promise of big savings.

“Our day started off kind of slow and early,” she said. “The people in Andalusia don’t generally get moving until around 10 (a.m.) or so when it’s rainy out and that’s just what happened today. By 11 (a.m.), we were super busy and it stayed steady the rest of the day.”

One such reason for the late shoppers could be that “they’re just plain tired,” according to Goody’s Family Clothing Store manager Maggie Givens.

“The holidays are exhausting,” Givens said. “But once they got up and about, we’ve been packed.”

Givens said her store too saw a lot of exchanges instead of returns this year.

“Not a lot of refunds, mostly exchanges and they’re buying a lot of our specials, too,” she said. “Which is great for us.”

It is unknown, however, if the surge of holiday shoppers is enough to bring the retail industry out of its slump. A fuller indicator of how retailers fared will arrive Jan. 8, when major stores report same-store sales, or sales at locations open at least a year, for December.