Some gifts are just better when you get to pick them out yourself — footwear and fish, for example.
Capital Region retailers like Mountainman Outdoor Supply Company in Saratoga Springs and Something Fishy at ViaPort Rotterdam reported a steady stream of customers on the day after Christmas, with people coming in to spend gift cards, take advantage of post-holiday sales and exchange unwanted gifts.
“Shoes tend to be a big one,” said Brian Nasser, who works as a buyer at Mountainman on Broadway, of items shoppers buy more of after the holidays. “It’s really tough to buy a pair of shoes for somebody else, so I find people will come in with a gift card, try on a couple pairs and get the right one.”
Nasser said there were about 50 people in the store at its busiest Monday, right after lunchtime, before an early afternoon bout of freezing rain made the roads treacherous, and business slowed to about 20 customers.
“It’s definitely a busy day for us,” he said. “We’re running around quite a bit.”
Nasser said the impact of increased foot-traffic in the days after Christmas is different from that of busy shopping days like Black Friday and Christmas Eve, “but that’s mostly because it’s getting offset by all the returns we’re getting.”
“It doesn’t quite add up in the register the same day, but we’re definitely as busy, if not busier,” he said.
Shortly after 2 p.m. in the former Rotterdam Square Mall, Something Fishy was packed with about 25 customers spending gift cards on home aquariums and “getting that special coral and fish they wanted,” store owner Keith Tooker said.
“The week leading up to Christmas was kind of slow, the two days before Christmas it was very busy, and today it’s been very busy,” he said.
He attributed the boost to people being home with their kids who have the week off from school, adding, “This is a fun, indoor hobby that the whole family can be involved in.”
“The one thing we have over the Internet is they can come here, see the animals and make sure they’re nice and healthy before taking them home,” he said.
Across the nation, potential customers were expected to feel the burn of holiday gift cards in their wallets and spend them quickly. Forty-one-percent of shoppers will be looking for post-holiday sales to make the most of their gift cards and 22 percent will use them as quickly as possible, up from 20 percent last year year, according to the National Retail Federation’s annual holiday survey, which polled 6,890 consumers from Dec. 1 through 7. Forty-eight-percent of those polled planned to take advantage of in-store sales after Christmas, up one percentage point from last year, while 44 percent planned to shop online, also up one point.
Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce President Todd Shimkus said he believes the influx in post-holiday shopping is being driven by people relying more on gift cards as gifts than ever before. Cards and certificates offer a last-minute option that easily fits into a stocking or envelope, “and then that person gets to go out and buy what they want,” he said. “Every year, I think, that climbs because of convenience.”
Shimkus said he expected the post-holiday rush to last through the weekend — culminating with First Night, the citywide New Year’s Eve arts festival, when shops will be open.
“There’s a little more science to having a festival like First Night as a means of drawing people with those gift cards and certificates to the downtown area,” he said.
At Northshire Bookstore on Broadway in Saratoga Springs, event manager Rachel Person said business was steady with customers using gift cards, exchanging gifts and taking advantage of sales — the biggest being 40-percent off holiday books and 50-percent off Christmas- and Chanukah-themed merchandise.
“The day for us starts slow and builds to get very, very busy by the late afternoon,” she said.