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After-Christmas sales draw thousands to Silverdale

And you thought it was busy BEFORE Christmas.

After-Christmas crowds pushed their way into the Kitsap Mall after it opened, 7 a.m., and quickly filled the retail center with thousands looking for bargains, exchanging gifts, or getting refunds.

Most retailers said returns equaled new purchases, and exchanges often led to fresh sales.

“We’ve been busy,” commented Brandon Ousley, clerk at the Watch Masters kiosk. “Busier than before Christmas. It’s amazing the number of people.”

Diane Giffey was there with her mom, Ella Davis, and son, Ian Giffey, 1. Mrs. Giffey said they’re not buying — yet.

“You see, I know the system,” said Mrs. Giffey. “We come down the day-after to check out the bargains ... then we come back in the coming days and weeks to watch the prices get lower and lower on what we’re interested in.” Nothing like tips from an expert bargain hunter.

Three girls at The Rare Rose kiosk were “ooo-ing” and “ahhh-ing” the ring section. They turned out to be the distaff side of the Dudder family of Seabeck — mom, Vicki, and daughters Jacualyn, 13, and Michele, 12.

“No exchanges today,” said mom. “We’re mostly here for the bargains. The girls have decided to spend their Christmas money today — I get to hold the bags,” she said smiling.

The clerk at The Rare Rose commented that the crowds seemed about the same as before Christmas. “We’ve been making a lot more sales — only one return today.”

Sue Hawk of Bremerton was relaxing on a bench in the Mall’s causeway. She’d had enough walking for one day.

“I still have the flu,” she said. “I’m just not into this. But I’m here with my son and his girlfriend.” She said they were bargain hunting “Using my gift certificates.”

At the Piercing Pagoda, clerk Dixie Self of Silverdale was showing necklaces and rings to Gaitha Stanton, 90, of Port Angeles, and to Stanton’s daughter-in-law, Jan Stanton.

The elder Mrs. Stanton had a scooter-type wheelchair next to her, but she was up and standing and pouring over the jewelry. She glanced back at her scooter and commented “That’s how I get around.”

As for the larger department stores:

A clerk at Gottschalks (who declined to be named) said “For us there’s been a lot of exchanges and sales — about equal. We’ve had a few returns, but most liked exchanging things for bargains.

Mike Mage of Silverdale was exchanging a belt for some shirts.

“It wasn’t the right color or style,” he said. But I’m mostly buying — biggest discounts of the year.”

At the Naturium, clerk Rhiannon Collopy said the store, which specializes in unusual gifts and toys, had about as many exchanges as new sales. The store is featuring 50 percent off on selected items.

Many stores had similar offers — 50 percent off on selected items — designed to pull customers in for other sales.

At Sears, clerks Lea Winkler of Bremerton and Jessica Burrows of Silverdale were busy refolding and tagging clothing for clearance sales later.

From their standpoint, “There’s been a lot of returns,” said the two, who admitted they were working up a sweat with all the work.

Stacey Ames, spokeswoman for the Mall, said their computerized people-counters indicated about 30,000 “bodies” had entered the Mall as of 4:10 p.m. Dec. 26.

“It’ll probably go up to 45,000 by closing at 10 p.m.,” she said.

She didn’t know how many exchanges, refunds or new purchases had occurred that day throughout the Mall. Such a break-down might take a few days.

“There were a lot of long lines out there,” she said.

Prior to the sales season, which began the first weekend after Thanksgiving (Nov. 30-Dec. 1) retailers feared a sagging U.S. economy, and five-day shorter shopping season, would make for fewer customers and fewer sales. However, things turned out to be as busy or busier than last year.

No sales totals were available. Favorite items this year included remote-controlled little toy cars, flat-screen “plasma” TVs, surround-sound home theaters, tools, DVDs, karaoke machines, and digital cameras, said retailers.

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