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Shoppers flock to stores day after Christmas
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Day after Christmas shoppers stream out of Turlock's Target.

Nary a parking space was to be found near Turlock’s Target, Wal-Mart, or Kohl’s on Sunday. Some visitors to Modesto’s Vintage Faire Mall found themselves driving in circles for 10 or 20 minutes, waiting with bated breath for an already-packed SUV to back away from a coveted spot.

Those shopping center parking lots – and others around the county – were chocked full of Turlockers in search of a good deal at annual day after Christmas sales, one of the busiest shopping days of the year.

“We could have been doing anything, but we decided to shop,” said Jana Siemens of Turlock, walking with friends through Turlock’s Monte Vista Crossing shopping center.

While the day after Christmas shopping tradition initially began with unhappy giftees returning goods and seeking replacement wares, nowadays most spending comes in the form of new gift card holders in search of tangible goods. According to projections from industry trade group National Retail Federation, gift cards were the most requested gift in 2010, marking the fourth consecutive year atop the most wanted list for gift cards.

“Gift cards serve as a blank check of sorts, giving the gift recipient free will to buy something they may have had their eye on for years,” said Phil Rist, executive vice president, Strategic Initiatives, BIGresearch, which conducted the NRF survey. “For some, gift cards are straight from the heart and among the most thoughtful gifts that a person can receive.”

According to the NRF, Americans were projected to spend an average of $145.61 on gift cards this year, up from $139.91 last year. Total gift card spending was projected to hit $24.78 billion this holiday season, with 77.3 percent of shoppers buying at least one gift card.

Last year, all that day after Christmas spending added up to the second largest shopping day of the year, just behind Black Friday, according to retail traffic management company ShopperTrak. Shoppers spent $7.9 billion on the day after Christmas last year, and this year ShopperTrak projected an even bigger year.

The last time the day after Christmas fell on a Sunday, in 2004, retail shopping traffic jumped 65 percent from the year before, according to ShopperTrak. Retailers hoped for a similar boost this year to make up for one fewer shopping Saturday between Thanksgiving and Christmas than in 2009.

“Although retailers are losing a Saturday this year, the day after Christmas provides an enormous selling opportunity and retailers who plan promotions and store operations wisely on this day will undoubtedly have a leg up this season,” said Bill Martin, co-founder of ShopperTrak.

Retailers offered some of their biggest deals this year in hope of enticing shoppers. The strategy worked in hooking Oakdale’s Lisa Padilla, who was drawn out day after Christmas shopping for the first time in five years.

“I usually avoid the crazy madness of all the clothes on the floor and 50 people waiting in line,” Padilla said.

But a slew of new gift cards, offers of good deals, and a little “Christmas spirit” drew Padilla to Turlock’s Monte Vista Crossings. At Kohl’s, thanks to some deep discounts and Kohl’s Cash, Padilla said she was able to get $180 worth of merchandise for just $30.

“It made it worth standing in line with 50 people,” Padilla said.

To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.