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Day-after-Christmas sales: Stars are aligned for a super Sunday

This year, day-after-Christmas sales are expected to be even more festive than usual. Fortuitous timing and Americans' renewed willingness to spend should cap the improved retail season.

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“Consumers have become more optimistic in their outlook,” wrote Chris Christopher, an economist who covers consumers for IHS Global Insight in Lexington, Mass., in an analysis on Thursday.

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A better mood

He attributes the better mood to an improvement in the jobs market, a good stock market, low interest rates, an easing of credit conditions and, of course, discounting by retailers.

Shoppers hitting the stores on Sunday will also be returning a lot of gifts. “It becomes a logistical nightmare trying to sort out what people get credit for and what needs to be disposed of,” says Los Angles-based Jacques Stambouli, CEO of Via Trading Co., a liquidator who buys the returned merchandise.

In past years, the biggest returns have been electronics, he says. “Most of the time it’s because people aren’t sure how they are supposed to work,” he says. This year, so far, retailers are seeing more returns of the new 3D TVs, he says. “People can’t figure out which buttons you have to push to make it work,” he says.

But for the most part, shoppers will be hitting the malls looking for deals. They won’t be disappointed, says Krugman. “Retailers will be trying to move a lot of seasonal merchandise such as apparel, gift wrapping, and holiday cards,” he says.

That’s what Ms. Audet is expecting in her quest for designer ornaments. In the past, stores have discounted some products by 50 to 75 percent off their normal price, she says. But, she adds, she has to get to the stores early to get the best deals. “It is really a race up the escalator,” she says.

Mr. Van Stone says he’s had some good fortune buying on Dec. 26. Last year, he and his wife, Carol, purchased a new Buick LaCrosse, General Motor’s new sedan.

“Normally, they don’t discount those cars, but they did discount it,” he says.

'Shop for yourself'

In New York, Ms. Murtagh plans to give her 11- and 14-year-old nieces visiting from South Carolina a chance to “get the whole New York shopping experience.”

But she plans on shopping herself for personal items. “You know the things we have been forcing ourselves not to buy before Christmas,” she says with a giggle. “Now you get to go back and shop for yourself after the fact.”

For retailers, such shopping is essential, says Linda Day, owner of Arabella, a boutique and dress store in McKinney, Texas.

She plans on reducing prices storewide by 20 percent, and expects the sale will attract women looking to buy New Year’s Eve dresses, plus a lot of tourists traveling from Dallas to visit the historic downtown.

She says reducing inventory is important since in January she will travel to various trade shows to buy new apparel and other merchandise.

“In January we’re spending a ton of money, so we like to have a little something in the bank,” she says.

IN PICTURES: Holiday helpers


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