Tips from the National Retail Federation for returning unwanted holiday gifts to retailers:
- Receipts are still key. Some stores — more now that the economy has soured — will accept a return without a receipt. But many may provide only store credit or the lowest markdown-price at which the item was sold during the holiday season.
- Bring back all boxes, packaging and tags. If you know you are going to return the gift, leave the box unopened.
- Go online and look at the store’s return policy so you know what to expect before you get there.
Lawrence resident Connie Woydziak is like everyone else — she’s been bombarded with advertisements and displays about Christmas since seemingly Labor Day.
But she was willing to spend one more day in the Christmas spirit, especially if it meant a bargain.
“You’ve got to get out and take advantage of the sales, get stocked up for next year,” Woydziak said at Rod’s Hallmark Shop, 2329 Iowa. “I’ve already bought gifts for four friends for next year.”
Retailers welcome such shoppers, especially this year. National reports indicate that holiday retail spending fell between 2 percent and 4 percent compared with last year.
SpendingPulse — a division of MasterCard Advisors that tracks total sales paid for by credit card, checks and cash — reported that women’s clothing sales dropped nearly 23 percent, while men’s clothing sales slipped more than 14 percent. Sales of big ticket items like appliances and electronics took the biggest hit — falling by about 27 percent.
Locally, estimates aren’t so precise, but several retailers said it was obvious money concerns were on the minds of consumers.
“I think people have been just as festive, but I think people have been spending more cautiously than they have in the past,” said Jennifer Holmes, manager of Rod’s Hallmark. “You do hear a lot more, ‘Oh, I’ve already spent my budget for that person.’”
Several Lawrence stores offered discounts ranging from 30 percent to 75 percent. But, was it enough?
Phyllis Newell, Oskaloosa, said she wasn’t sure the after-Christmas discounts were much better than the aggressive pre-Christmas sales. She and her husband, Mike Newell, should know. By 10 a.m. Friday, they had been to J.C. Penney, Target, Bed Bath & Beyond, Michael’s, Home Depot and Westlake Ace Hardware.
But Connie Leahew, Baldwin City, said persistence was perhaps starting to pay off. She too had been to several stores Friday morning.
“The carts I’ve seen going out the door today are pretty full,” Leahew said. “I don’t think consumers have cut back as much as they think they have.”