News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

December 28, 2012

Bargain bonanza: Stores packed with patrons 2 days after Christmas

TERRE HAUTE — A big sale on Christmas cards — 75 percent off — drew April Harlow to Terre Haute’s Stein Mart Thursday, but she didn’t stop there. By the time she got to the checkout counter, Harlow, of Bloomington, had her arms full of other items she was ready to purchase.

And she was not alone.

Terre Haute’s retail stores were packed Thursday as holiday shoppers celebrated their liberation from Wednesday’s snow-induced post-Christmas cooling off period. Honey Creek Mall was closed due to the predicted heavy snows the day after Christmas, but Thursday, the mall’s parking lot looked like it was Black Friday all over again.

Business was also brisk Thursday at Galloway Camera west of Honey Creek Mall.

“It’s always busy the day after Christmas,” said Chuck Galloway, who has been in the photography retail business since the 1960s. “People have money.”

Other draws to retailers Thursday included gift cards, which have become one of the most popular holiday presents, and returns.

Although figures aren’t yet final, it appears many retailers suffered a disappointing holiday season. MasterCard Advisors SpendingPulse showed holiday sales increased less than 1 percent this year, the weakest growth since the 2008 financial crisis. As a result, many big retailers were offering big post-Christmas sales to reduce bloated inventories, according to national retail observers.

The same was true in the retail photography business, Galloway said.

“Anybody who went insane and ordered a lot of [inventory] was going to be sitting on it,” he said.

Galloway Camera is not dealing with a lot of unsold items in part because the store scaled back its pre-Christmas purchases, Galloway said. Forecasts from industry observers warned of a slow holiday shopping season, he said, and those proved correct.

But holiday sales officially continue the week after Christmas, meaning final sales figures could be healthier than currently projected. And sales of gift cards are not counted until cards are redeemed, meaning a mountain of spending is yet to come.

The National Retail Federation expected holiday gift card sales to reach $28.8 billion this year, according to the organization’s website.

Still, not all retailers have had a slower-than-expected holiday season. Some, such as Walmart, are thought to have had strong holiday sales, according to industry observers.

Stein Mart, which is in the Meadows, also saw healthy sales leading up to Christmas, said Gloria Schopper, store manager. In part, that was due to a lot of pre-Christmas promotions and other creative ways to bring customers to the store, she said.

“We were more promotional this year and I think that paid off,” Schopper said. “We beat last year and that’s my gauge.”

Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at (812) 231-4232 or arthur.foulkes@tribstar.com.

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