Post-Christmas picture not too bleak

Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Joyce Mrozinski, the self-described senior first assistant manager at the Cato store, reprices clothes for an after-Christmas sale.

If it wasn't a "Ho hum merry Christmas," as reported nationally, there seemed to be a regular business "hum, whirr and cha-ching" among retailers in Lewisburg since Santa's sleigh has been parked again.

"We did as well as some years, but not as good as last year," reports Kim Wassermann of Lewisburg, the manager of the Factory Connection here, one of some 250 such stores in a chain that's headquartered in Albertville, Ala.

Wasserman was switching signs as she reflected on the Christmas shopping season that's being transformed into a New Years Eve event for smart shoppers looking for deals.

"People are out looking for deals," said Joyce Mrozinski, the self-described senior first assistant manager at the Cato store. "We sold the clearance items," she said of the discriminating consumers.

"This year, they'd do their own shopping," Mrozinski said. "They didn't need assistance."

Meanwhile, Peebles Store Manager Robin Surowitz reported the day after Christmas was "about the same -- like a normal day, but I've had more returns, but that's to be expected for just after Christmas."

As for overall sales this season: "They're down for the year, but I think the majority of retailers are experiencing the same trend with the economy," Surowitz said.

Her sales associate, Karon Johnson was "busy with a little bit of everything: returns and exchanges, and sales, too," Johnson said. Reasons included: "'I don't like it,' or 'I just want something else,' or, 'It doesn't fit.'

"Lots of people have been in to shop with gift cards," she said from behind the sales counter while ringing up another purchase.

At the Cato store, Mrozinski reported gift card usage and cash purchases.

"People ave been spending cash," she said. "I think a lot of it is Christmas (gifted) money...

"We were not this busy on Christmas Eve," Mrozinski said while marking down Christmas stock before a Sunday sale, and, "We're getting ready for spring and summer" fashion sales.

Factory Connection gift cards also appeared to be popular gifts this year, so on the day after Christmas, Wassermann could report, "Business was like before Christmas."

Yet, after several years at her store, Wassermann could reflect on previous years when Christmas wasn't on a week-day like Thursday.

"Once, we opened on a Sunday when Christmas was on a Saturday," she said. "We did really good with returns. If you get a gift, you want something that works."

This year, Wassermann acknowledged that her store's sales volume was "down a little" compared to last year, but her spirits were rising as she climbed the ladder steps to change a red and green sign for a frosty winter blue announcement about her New Year's Day sales.