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Shoppers Flood Area Stores, Gift Cards In Hand

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RALEIGH, N.C. — The after-Christmas shopping rush has begun.

People crowded area stores and malls Friday, some to return those not-so-perfect gifts, others looking for post-Christmas bargains.

A lot of shoppers kept their cash and paid with plastic gift cards.

According to the

National Retail Federation,

the use of gift cards has doubled in the last year and accounts for $17 billion of holiday retail spending.

"Gift cards are a wonderful idea for grandparents," shopper Betts Willman said, "and aunts and uncles who don't know what video games people play or what game system they have."

Willman told her family to buy her son, Troy, gift cards. He used three of them Friday.

"Gift cards have been huge for us today," retailer Lawrence Toner said. "And actually returns have not been that bad so far."

In an odd site the day after Christmas, the line at the return counter of least one store was short while the lines at the cash registers were backed up.

Managers said it was because of the high number of gift cards they sold before Christmas. In fact, some stores sold more than they ordered.

"Obviously, looking around, this is something that's caught on," Willman said. "It's a great idea."

Still, many people were returning gifts, and the reasons were the same as in previous years: It doesn't fit. It's ugly. Or the person already has one.

Without a receipt, many stores will not accept returns. But most will give the current value of the item in the form of a store credit -- not cash.

Keep in mind the current value could be less now than what it was a couple of days ago. But for many, it was those reduced prices that had them making a return visit to the mall Friday.

"I saved myself over $100," one shopper said.

From 30, to 50, to 70 percent off, retailers know people are headed back to the stores, and they will make every attempt to keep people shopping.

It is a good idea to save receipts to avoid post-holiday hassles at the store. Also, some return windows are as short as 14 days. Many stores also will not accept opened merchandise.

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