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Shoppers wrap up season

Post-Christmas discounts entice, but overall holiday sales a step back

A winter blast didn’t stop diehards hunting for bargains.

Shoppers were out in force locally Wednesday, despite snow and slippery roads the day after Christmas.

Deep discounting will do that.

“It’s pretty amazing. People are out shopping,” Katrina Newman, spokeswoman for Jefferson Pointe, said Wednesday.

“Obviously, they are being careful. There are some pretty incredible deals going on, and they know about them.”

For instance, Old Navy marked 75 percent off select merchandise.

“The deals and gift cards are what are bringing people out,” Newman said.

It was the same story in and around Glenbrook Square. At Target, at least 30 shoppers were on hand when doors swung open at 7 a.m.

“People came in because the toys go on sale, to spend gift cards and buy Christmas decorations, which are 30 to 50 percent off,” said Hector Hernandez, a Target manager. “It’s been steady.”

Retailers will need the traffic to continue, according to the MasterCard Advisors SpendingPulse report. So far, sales of electronics, clothing, jewelry and home goods in the two months before Christmas increased 0.7 percent compared with last year, according to the report – the weakest holiday performance since 2009, the year after sales dropped sharply.

Holiday sales are a crucial indicator of the economy’s strength. November and December account for up to 40 percent of annual revenue for many retailers.

But the National Retail Federation said Wednesday that it was sticking to its forecast, expecting sales during the November-December period to be up 4.1 percent to $586.1 billion this year. That would still be more than a percentage point lower than the growth in each of the past two years and the smallest increase since 2009, when sales were up just 0.3 percent.

Stephen Hilker, events manager for Junior Achievement of Northern Indiana, hit Burlington Coat Factory and Stein Mart on Wednesday but said he didn’t anticipate “pulling the trigger” on any major purchases.

“I’m out looking for deals, but I’m patient,” Hilker said. “At JA, we’re always talking about distinguishing between wants and needs. The stuff I’m looking at right now are wants. I don’t shop on impulse.”

pwyche@jg.net

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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