- Kara Driscoll Staff Writer
Throngs of shoppers milled in and out of stores at area malls on the day after Christmas.
Rachel Terry sat on a bench outside of Forever 21 at the Dayton Mall with her children — taking a break from the post-Christmas crowds. Terry stopped into shop at some of her favorites including Rue21, Old Navy and Toys “R” Us.
“We’re just spending the gift cards we got for Christmas,” she said.
Terry is among the hoards of consumers who are heading back out to local shopping centers and malls to return unwanted gifts and spend gift cards they received as presents. According to a 2017 survey of holiday shoppers by the National Retail Federation, almost two-thirds of people said they made at least one return the past holiday season.
Returns will likely increase as shopping record sales soared in November and December. The National Retail Federation projects that holiday retail sales in the two month this year will be up between 3.6 percent and 4 percent for a total between $678.8 billion and $682 billion.
“Due to the continued popularity of gift cards, as well as many of our local and national retailers offering sales and promotions, we expect the Mall at Fairfield Commons to be very busy during the last week of the year,” said Kristie Miller, general manager of the Mall at Fairfield Commons. “We are focused on providing our guests with a dynamic experience during this busy shopping week.”
The continued push comes as retailers saw record spending starting in early November — but a lot shifted online. From Thanksgiving Day through Cyber Monday, more than 174 million Americans shopped in stores and online, according to the National Retail Federation. That beat the 164 million estimated shoppers expected to come during the weekend.
“All the fundamentals were in place for consumers to take advantage of incredible deals and promotions retailers had to offer,” said Matthew Shay, NRF president and CEO. “From good weather across the country to low unemployment and strong consumer confidence, the climate was right, literally and figuratively, for consumers to tackle their holiday shopping lists online and in stores.”
Three out of four holiday shoppers checked return policies before making a purchase last holiday season, and many ultimately backed out of buying an item because of some inconvenient return policy. Some of the major reasons consumers didn’t buy something included: a lack of free return shipping; only store credit offered instead of a full refund; and inability to return items in-store; or too small of a return window of time.
The better the return policy, the more people will shop, according to the NRF.
“Consumers now demand a generous return policy. Research indicates that lenient return policies can lead to increased purchases. During the pre-purchase phase, a lenient return policy can give consumers the assurance and security that they will be able to return a product if they don’t like it,” a NRF report found.
Some retailers have better return policies than others, according to the Consumer Reports 2017. Some of the best retailers for returns include: L.L.Bean, Bed Bath & Beyond, Costco, JCPenney, Eddie Bauer, Harry & David, Kohl’s and Lands’ End, according to Consumer Reports.
The biggest spenders this holiday season were older millennials — 25 to 34 years old — at $419.52. Average spending per person over the five-day period was $335.47, with $250.78 – 75 percent – specifically going toward gifts.
Still local shopping centers stayed busy with shoppers throughout the season — and mall officials say they still have something to offer that consumers can’t get online. Steve Willshaw, general manager of The Greene Town Center in Beavercreek, said shoppers will always go to local malls and shopping centers for the experience of spending time with friends and family and picking their gifts out in person.
“We start to see larger crowds the weekend before Thanksgiving and Black Friday during our Greene Saturday and Tree Lighting events,” Willshaw said. “It stays busy after that.”
FIVE FAST BUSINESS READS