Metro-East News

Bargain-hunters shop Saturday despite weather

Shoppers in droves braved heavy rains Saturday to hunt for post-Christmas bargains and use gift cards given them the day before.

John Conkright, the owner of Ben’s Crafts and Florals in downtown Belleville, said business was very good on Saturday. He noted a major factor being his decision to reduce the price of all Christmas-related items by 50 percent.

“I just wanted to get rid of it,” said Conkright. “We wanted to get ready for spring. I have a ton of spring merchandise coming in. I just decided to get it out of there and get ready for spring.”

A few blocks away, at the Crystal and Spice Shoppe, at 318 E. Main St., co-proprietor Gloria Smith said Saturday unfolded prettily busily all day Saturday.

The shop’s customers show up “because Christmas is over with. Now the next thing they’re getting ready for is New Year’s. And now they got company visiting,” Smith said. “They have to come to the spice shop because they got stuff here when they were here visiting last year. Now they want to get that before they to back home.”

A few miles away, at the Belleville Crossing shopping center, a steady stream of bargain-hunters poured in and out of the major stores at the center.

Taking shelter from the pouring rain in the foyer of the Target store while he waited for his wife to pull up the car , Al Chester of Dupo said he was visiting the store because his wife had received a gift card.

“And we came by to get a few things,” Chester said. “We (saw) a lot of sales in there. Fifty percent off. Thirty percent off.”

Amy Jo Miller, of Belleville, said the hope of buying “wrapping paper” and “a couple gift bags” led her to venture out into the rain with her family to make a visit to Target.

Miller admitted she’s usually not a big day-after-Christmas shopper.

“Maybe next week sometime I don’t mind going out,” she said.

Brick-and-mortar merchants across the nation were hoping for big post-Christmas sales numbers to make up for disappointing numbers posted during the build-up to Christmas.

As a result, according to Forbes magazine, national retailers such as Gap and Old Navy were slashing prices across a wide range of items. Some retailers, because of excess inventory and the need to drum up more foot traffic, sought to lure customers with a range of “blow-out” sales.

Macy’s is one of these retailers. Its “website landing page reads like a fire sale complete with ‘late-breaking deals’ of up to 75 percent off many items,” Forbes reported on its website. “Christmas wasn’t a blowout for retailers, but the after-Christmas sales will be for shoppers.”

The popularity of gift cards will be a big factor in post-Christmas sale numbers. Gift card spending in 2015 is expected to hit almost $26 billion, according to the National Retail Federation.

Ashley Sanders, the assistant manager of Famous Footwear, said business was “on and off” Saturday, with the biggest issue the heavy rainfall.

“Most of it was gift cards today and exchanges,” Sanders said. “Everyone’s opened up their Christmas and ‘Well, I don’t like these. I need a bigger or smaller size.’”

Next door to Famous, Ashley Varone, the assistant “coach,” or manager at Hibbett Sports, said the day was “busy with returns.” Before the rains hit, the store was busy with customer traffic.

“But since it’s been raining, it’s been slower,” Varone said.

Mike Fitzgerald: 618-239-2533, @MikeFitz3000