Daily photo by John Godbey|
Nothing to smile about the day after Christmas? The view Tuesday from the refund register at Kmart in Decatur.
of the day
Area retailers say Christmas sales up; customer-service focus may be reason
From staff, AP reports
Won't work. Didn't fit. Didn't like it. Already had one.
A multitude of complaints brought consumers back to stores the day after Christmas, looking for refunds and bargains.
According to the National Retail Federation, one-third of consumers will return some of their Christmas gifts this season.
In Decatur, stand-alone retailers like Kmart, as well as businesses in Colonial Mall, saw a flood of customers buying and returning goods.
Parisian and some other stores opened early to lure shoppers.
Standing at the end of a long line that snaked its way into a Best Buy store in Mobile, Kenny Miller said he had planned to return a video game given to his children on Wednesday and avoid the rush, but "they were all over me" to immediately exchange it.
Daily photo by John Godbey|
Mother and daughter Gina and Layla Sharp of Priceville carry armloads of clothing they found on sale at Parisian at Colonial Mall on Tuesday morning.
Their grandmother gave them an X-Box video that didn't work on the children's PlayStation 2 equipment, Miller said.
Consumers also spent gift cards and scooped up discounted merchandise, but appeared more relaxed after the gift-buying. Retailers also were on guard against fraud.
According to a National Retail Federation survey, criminals commonly take advantage of companies' return policies to receive cash for stolen merchandise, launder money or return an item after it has been used. Generally, a receipt is required for a cash refund or merchandise credit.
Nationally, retailers had a prosperous holiday sales period, according to Chicago-based ShopperTrak RCT Corp.'s National Retail Sales Estimate, which showed sales for Dec. 22 and Dec. 23 combined totaled $16.28 billion — up 22.5 percent over the same two-day period in 2005.
Several Decatur retailers said they've had a good month, especially in the days leading up to Christmas. Some said they relied on customer service to compete against retailers in larger cities.
Sears Store Manager James Beddingfield illustrated this emphasis on service.
Front and center of a pre-Christmas advertising insert purchased by his store was an ad for a 510 megabyte card for digital cameras at a price of just $10.
"We sold the 50 we had in about 10 minutes," said Beddingfield.
So a corporate-designed loss leader intended to create a flood of happy shoppers resulted in a long line of angry ones, wondering loudly why the advertised special was sold out 10 minutes after the sale began.
Beddingfield decided to issue tickets permitting customers to buy the cards at the $10 price, with delivery before Christmas.
"Sure we lost money on it," Beddingfield said. "You can't make money selling them for 10 bucks. But I felt it was the right thing to do."
In a retail market crowded by Huntsville stores and the Internet, Beddingfield's counter-intuitive decision may explain what local retailers describe as a blockbuster Christmas season.
"It was a great Christmas for us," Beddingfield said. "We've been up over last year. Up huge."
The customer-centered approach paid dividends for stores like Java Jaay at Colonial Mall, which catered to weary mall shoppers.
"The week before Christmas was our best week (since we opened in May)," said store owner Rick Stovall. "The Saturday before Christmas was huge, our best day ever."
Ron Crow, who owns Emiron Music Inc. on Second Avenue Northeast, also said he had a great Christmas season.
"I haven't run the numbers yet, but based on inventory, I know we're doing well," he said Tuesday.
Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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