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Post-Christmas shoppers seek drastic discounts

By E. Scott Reckard, Los Angeles Times

LOS ANGELES — Post-Christmas shoppers hit the malls to buy what they didn’t get for the holiday, but they were still looking for huge bargains.

“Frugal fatigue,” said analyst Marshal Cohen of the NPD Group, gripped many consumers who had gotten used to the drastic discounts offered during the regular holiday shopping season. “A lot of consumers are tapped out already.” He said that on the day after Christmas, shoppers were finding “a lot of 40 percent (off) deals” but not the 70 percent off they were looking for.

“The psychology right now is ‘No deal — no sale,’ ” Cohen said. “At 50 percent off, consumers are not going to go crazy.”

Figures for the day after Christmas, traditionally one of the year’s busiest shopping days, were not immediately available. Cohen said sales for the week ending Sunday were up more than 3 percent from the previous week, continuing a positive trend for retailers this year. He did not, however, expect a blockbuster post-Christmas period.

The after-Christmas season historically is a time when consumers return unwanted gifts, stop thinking about others and start thinking more about what they want and didn’t receive.

But this year 46 percent of U.S. consumers already shopped for themselves before Christmas, up from a typical 25 percent, Cohen said.

The reason, he said: “This year there was more product on sale and the sales were deeper than last year.”

But out in the malls Monday, there were plenty of shoppers who continued to snatch up bargains for themselves and family members and seemed satisfied with the level of discounts in many shops.

Early birds at the Shops at Mission Viejo (Calif.) mall mainly carried bags from retailers offering large discounts, such as Banana Republic, which was advertising apparel at up to 60 percent off. Nordstrom, a higher-end department store having its twice-a-year sale on men’s clothing, also appeared to be a popular choice.

Connor Thompson, a Cal Poly San Luis Obispo student home in San Juan Capistrano, Calif., for the holidays, sat inside the high-end retailer with a Nordstrom bag at his feet stuffed with jeans, shirts and a Diesel watch.

Thompson, 20, had gone to the mall to meet his girlfriend, who planned to return several Christmas gifts.

“And then I saw Nordstrom was doing its half-yearly sale,” he said. Among the markdowns was a table of Levi’s jeans reduced to $40 from about $60.

Thompson bought two pairs and two discounted shirts for himself. His mother, via a text message, ordered him to buy a couple of pairs for his brother, too. He bought the watch at full price but said he planned to return it later in the day if he and his girlfriend spotted a better deal somewhere else.

By 10 a.m. Beth Lukina, 56, of Mission Viejo, Calif., had already outfitted herself with undergarments from Victoria’s Secret, which was offering discounts on bras. The mall was nearly deserted when it opened at 7 a.m., so Lukina received “individual treatment” from the staff as she shopped.

“I’m getting ready for New Year’s Eve,” she said.

But Lukina’s main reason for the early mall visit was to buy heavily discounted presents to give her two sons’ girlfriends next year. She got one of them a Christmas-themed teddy bear at a seasonal store that had marked down this year’s merchandise by 75 percent.

By late morning, long lines of cars were backed up at South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa, Calif., where Ed Delacruz was stuffing bags of discounted merchandise purchased by family members into his car, then returning to the mall to see what else the dedicated shoppers had found.

Delacruz, 65, who recently retired to Lakewood, Calif., from a U.S. Treasury Department job in Washington, had hoped to play tennis with buddies Monday. Instead, he said, his wife got him up at 5:30 a.m. to head to South Coast Plaza, California’s largest mall.

The discounts weren’t as deep as those they had found on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, he said, but the bargain quest went on.

“We were out shopping on the 24th,” he said. “And here we are shopping on the 26th.”

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