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Shoppers hunt for bargains and exchanges

Photo by Laura Williams

Photo by Laura Williams

ALBANY -- Call it round two.

Shoppers headed to the stores to take advantage of discounts, Christmas gift cards and plain old cash gifts Saturday.

The Albany Mall and most of its stores opened at 8 a.m. to take advantage of another shopping day that could up their profits this season.

It is no wonder stores opened early, ShopperTrak, a retail research firm reported on its Web site shoppertrak.com that Dec. 26 was the second highest traffic day in 2008 following Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving.

"There were people here at 8 (a.m.)," said Jean Fisher, 63, staffing the mall information desk. "It began to pick up after 9 (a.m.) and I expect it will get busier after noon. Shoppers take advantage of bargains, bring their gift cards and there are a few exchanges."

Breanna Bradley, 15, and her mother Kimberly Tyler, 40, carried bags from stores such as Aeropostal, Rue 21 and Wet Seal through Books-A-Million on their way to their car.

"We came for the after Christmas sales," Bradley said. "I get to use my Christmas gift cards and money."

Once the duo reached their car, Tyler said they were driving to JCPenny's to do more shopping.

Shopping for Christmas decorations on sale brought a significant number of people to Dillard's Saturday, said Allen Gustafson, store manager. He found that not many people were making exchanges, but he expected that exchanges would increase a little as the holiday weekend wore on.

"Exchanges make up less than 10 percent of what we do on holidays," Gustafson said. "I haven't been to all the departments but people are taking advantage of the sale on Christmas ornaments."

Relaxing on a bench just a short distance from Dillard's one couple had bags full of Christmas decorations.

"My daughter just moved into a new house. We bought Christmas decorations for her house," said Phyllis Pate, 49, accompanied by her husband Glenn, 54. "The upscale items were on a good sale."

Despite an acknowledged slow economy, the mood among shoppers

and store employees seemed upbeat. One man returning a wrong-size belt for a larger one came away from his gift exchange satisfied.

"People are real courteous and nice," Harry Bryant, 60,

said. "Exchanging a gift was no problem."

Retail outlets could see a gain of 1.6 percent in sales nationwide this season, ShopperTrak said. The managers at Victoria's Secret said they were selling their line of lingerie and women's clothing at a good pace, while exchanges wee minimal.

"We opened at 8 a.m. and there were people waiting outside," said Nikki Fredrick, store manager. "I think it is gift cards driving this traffic

today."