Area's retailers offset lines with bargains

Holiday shopping’s second season includes exchanges and major price markdowns

ahobbs@theolympian.comDecember 27, 2013 

Christmas came and went, but holiday shopping is far from over.

This week, retailers are offering post-Christmas discounts while customers spend gift cards or return unwanted presents. Dec. 26 and Dec. 28 will be two of the busiest shopping days this year, according to ShopperTrak, a Chicago-based company that studies retail and consumer statistics.

Retailers across Thurston County prepared for the rush, including Fred Meyer in Lacey, where a steady stream of customers lined up Thursday to return items or take advantage of the store’s three-day post-Christmas sale.

Some people still waited for their gifts to arrive after a surge in online sales caused a delivery backlog. Shipping behemoth UPS played catch-up Thursday as customers complained via social media about late packages.

UPS handles 50 percent to 60 percent of online orders. Total online sales the weekend before Christmas had increased 37 percent from the previous year, according to the Wall Street Journal’s Marketwatch blog.

Amazon announced Thursday it would refund shipping charges and issue $20 gift cards for customers whose orders were affected by the delivery crunch. The online retail giant reported a record-setting holiday season with more than 1 million customers joining its Amazon Prime service in late December. The service featured unlimited free two-day shipping.

On Facebook, The Olympian sought feedback from readers who were affected by the shipping jam. A comment by Olympia resident Ajai Singh Khalsa offered one perspective on the crisis: “Can you say ‘first world problem?’”

Some shoppers, however, preferred brick-and-mortar stores. The Popinjay in downtown Olympia buzzed with customers Thursday morning as the gift shop kicked off its “After the Season Sale.” Holiday-themed items were marked down 50 percent or more.

Popinjay owner Janis Dean said 2013 was a tough year for downtown businesses. A sharp uptick in November and December was a pleasant surprise, she said. On Dec. 23, Dean’s store raked in the equivalent of a week’s worth of sales, thanks to last-minute shoppers.

“People really wanted to shop local,” Dean said. “I was hearing it from their mouths as they were spending money.”

Dean noted that most post-Christmas customers tend to shop for themselves, and by January, the shopping fever cools to normal levels.

Online coupon hub RetailMeNot reports that 79 percent of U.S. consumers plan to shop for end-of-year sales after Christmas, and of those shoppers, 64 percent plan to buy something for themselves.

For information on return policies for all major retailers, visit returnguru. com/returnpolicies.aspx.

Andy Hobbs: 360-704-6869 ahobbs@theolympian.com

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