Post-Christmas sales attract Corridor shoppers

Gift cards, cash fuel sales at stores

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Thursday found many Eastern Iowans at shopping malls and stores either exchanging or returning gifts as well as looking for post-Christmas bargains.

"We came to shop the after-Christmas sales for my step-mom and dad's brother," said Emily Meeks, who was shopping at Coral Ridge Mall in Coralville on Friday. "It's not as busy as it was on Black Friday."

For merchants, Friday is a day to attract shoppers spending time at the mall.

"A lot of people are off from work, so they're out killing time," said Kevin Stiers of Forever Fan, a kiosk at Coral Ridge. "Many of them have gift cards or money that they got for Christmas and they're looking to spend it on themselves.

"This is our 16th year that we've been in Coral Ridge Mall -- 13 years with a store and three years with a kiosk. We've been really busy this year."

At Best Buy in northeast Cedar Rapids, Jeff McGraw said shoppers were lined up early to exchange gifts or make purchases.

"The lines are not too long right now and we've had a lot of gift card traffic," McGraw said. "We've had the normal returns and exchanges for this time of year. Everything has been running pretty smooth."

Sales during the 2013 holiday season grew from a year earlier as retailers used higher discounts and promotions to attract customers in a season with fewer shopping days, according to MasterCard Advisors. Holiday sales between Nov. 1 and Dec. 24 rose 2.3 percent, compared with 0.7 percent a year earlier.

Kohl's, the department store chain with locations in Cedar Rapids, Coralville, Dubuque and Waterloo, kept its stores open for 108 hours from 6 a.m. Dec. 20 to 6 p.m. Christmas Eve for an 11th-hour sales push.

The Menomonee Falls, Wis., retailer was hoping for a turnaround after its third-quarter profit dropped 18 percent to $177 million, while revenue dipped 1.02 percent, to $4.44 billion.

To capture shoppers' attention, stores deepened discounts, promoting extra deals in the last days before the Christmas holiday.

Gap's Old Navy chain on Dec. 22 started offering as much as 75 percent off throughout the store. "The After Holiday Sale Starts Today," the chain said in a full-page ad in The Washington Post.

The National Retail Federation reiterated on Dec. 12 its prediction that total sales will rise 3.9 percent in November and December, more than the 3.5 percent gain a year ago. Chicago-based researcher ShopperTrak has said holiday purchases will rise 2.4 percent, the smallest gain since 2009.

The International Council of Shopping Centers said Dec. 24 that sales at retailers' stores open at least a year climbed 2.7 percent in the week ending Dec. 21 from a year earlier.

The New York-based trade group maintained its projection that retailers will report comparable-store sales increases of 3 percent to 4 percent for December when they issue their latest monthly reports.

Bloomberg News and Reuters contributed to this story.

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