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Post-Christmas rush hits ABQ stores

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Ann Gardiner, right, and her daughter, Ellie Gardiner, check out the after-Christmas sales items at Soft Surroundings in ABQ Uptown. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/JOURNAL)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — While a rush on retail stores is most associated with the weeks leading up to Christmas, Albuquerque-area residents are turning out in droves after the holiday to return items that didn’t fit or were the wrong style, redeem gift cards and take advantage of sales.

Ann Gardiner of Bernalillo was checking out the merchandise at the Soft Surroundings store in ABQ Uptown with her daughter, Ellie, on Wednesday, a day that also included visits to a nearby Target, Lush and Teavana.

“I’m really an after-Christmas shopper (because there are) better sales,” Gardiner said. “I won’t pay full price.”

She scored some “practical deals” at Target, picking up aluminum foil, Ziplock containers and Scotch tape — all marked down 70 percent.

Anyone passing the Cabela’s @ Legacy Journal Center the day after Christmas would have seen a packed parking lot, with exiting shoppers pushing carts brimming with merchandise.

Some Cabela’s shoppers say they prefer receiving gift cards for Christmas so they  can cash in on the sales after the holiday.

“Gift certificates are an annual tradition for the family,” said Bootsie Ackerman of Fayetteville, Ark. Ackerman was in town visiting her children and grandchildren. The family enjoys the outdoors, so she was expecting some hiking and fishing purchases over the course of her stay.

Speaking of fishing, Corbin McBurnett, an Albuquerque special education teacher, treated himself to a fish-cleaning station, which also was on sale at Cabela’s. “I’m a happy man!” said McBurnett, who now expects to handle the day’s catch more efficiently on upcoming treks to Cochiti Lake and elsewhere.

Over in footwear, Jim Gross was getting a new pair of hiking boots to better handle some of the trails at the Elena Gallegos open space. “My daughter, Christie, gave me a nice gift card,” he smiled.

For shoppers and retailers alike, Christmas Day isn’t necessarily the finish line, said Ray Hartjen, of RetailNext, a retail analytics company. Companies will be looking to move inventory, particularly in fashion and specialty apparel, as the spring season is right around the corner, he said, referring to the discounts and sales on offer beyond New Year’s Day.

“We’ve seen so many excited customers coming in to redeem gift cards and shop our winter collection before we bring in new merchandise for spring,” said Jessica Conick, a spokeswoman for Soft Surroundings, which recently opened a brick-and-mortar location at ABQ Uptown, its first store in New Mexico.

The National Retail Federation predicted holiday sales would increase 4 percent this year over last, to $682 billion, while a tracking firm called Customer Growth Partners recently increased its projected year-over-year increase from 4.5 to 5.6 percent, according to an MSNBC online story.

A recent study by Optoro, a tech firm that helps retailers organize and manage their returned goods, said consumers return $380 billion worth of goods each year, and about $90 billion during the holiday season alone.

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