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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, December 27, 2003

Stores greet day-after Christmas shoppers

By Andrew Gomes
Advertiser Staff Writer

Droves of shoppers returned to Hawai'i malls yesterday, many of them taking off work the day after Christmas to make a four-day weekend and a busy day for retailers.

Shoppers flocked to Ala Moana Center and other malls nationwide yesterday in hopes of finding post-Christmas bargains.

Rebecca Breyer • The Honolulu Advertiser

Many stores opened early and discounted leftover holiday merchandise and other items to create a post-Christmas rush that jammed parking lots, store aisles and checkout counters.

It was so busy that at about midday at Ala Moana Center a long line had formed for the women's bathroom in Macy's, and two shelves of Christmas cards inside Longs Drug Store were nearly empty.

"It was too crowded, you couldn't shop," said Travis Louie, a first-time day-after-Christmas shopper from Nu'uanu who was leaving Ala Moana to go to Kahala Mall and CompUSA after starting the day at Circuit City at Pearlridge Center.

Hawai'i retailers are counting on the last weekend of the year to end what they hope will be a strong holiday season that can account for 25 percent to 40 percent of annual sales.

While most of the evidence so far is anecdotal, the holiday retail season is expected to finish stronger than last year because of low unemployment, rising personal income, low interest rates and a state economy that in many ways is outperforming the Mainland.

Nationally, retail forecasters expect holiday sales will rise about 4 percent, a figure some Hawai'i retailers said they expect to exceed.

To avoid the traffic mess, Stanford Kanehiro took the bus from Waikiki to check out the sales at Ala Moana. He bought some everyday items such as toilet paper and soap at Longs, but passed up good deals on cards at Hallmark because of long lines.

"It was too discouraging," he said. "If you have the patience, it was good." Still, Kanehiro, who's retired, enjoyed being among the mass of shoppers. "Just walking around seeing all the people ... it's a good feeling. Not stressful like before Christmas."

Staff at Ala Moana's car valet service and several merchants said yesterday's rush wasn't nearly as bad as the day before Christmas.

The International Council of Shopping Centers said that last year the six days between the day after Christmas and the end of the year accounted for 12 percent of mall sales during the holiday season, compared with 41 percent for the six days before Christmas.

This year, Christmas fell on a Thursday, a day later in the week, leading retailers to suspect more people would take a day off work yesterday for a three-day weekend of shopping.

"It's going to be pretty busy with (the day after Christmas) falling on a Friday," said Gill Berger, manager of Sears, Roebuck and Co. at Ala Moana. "If (Christmas) was mid-week or earlier in the week, it might be different."

Items at Ala Moana Center's Gymboree store yesterday drew the attention of Sharmaine Tolentino, 7, of Kalihi. She was one of many Hawai'i shoppers who returned to malls in search of bargains.

Rebecca Breyer • The Honolulu Advertiser

At Sears Ala Moana, Berger said he believes business will be higher by a percentage increase in the middle to high single digits.

To facilitate sales yesterday, Sears opened at 7 a.m., an hour before most stores at the mall, and briskly sold Christmas items, toys and large plastic storage bins. "I think the idea of the after-Christmas clearance is a fixture in everybody's mind," Berger said.

Shirokiya tried to attract customers with "door-buster" specials, such as a $32 headset Walkman and $99 Walkman that records MP3s and CDs. By 10 a.m., a $19 Walkman was sold out, according to store manager Walter Watanabe, who said there was a line waiting to get in the store when it opened at 8 a.m.

Carol Van Camp, general manager of Prince Kuhio Plaza, said the trend of better business this holiday season continued yesterday with strong reports from department stores at the Big Island's biggest shopping center.

"There was definitely a good reason for people to come shopping today," she said, referring to advertised specials from many of the mall's stores.

Merchants said a lot of yesterday's business was taking returns, making exchanges and redeeming gift cards.

Still, shoppers scrambled to find good deals like the $12 foot care set that law student Jessica Wong bought at The Body Shop.

Wong, a Kane'ohe resident and regular day-after-Christmas shopper who started the day at Kahala Mall, said the crammed parking lot at Ala Moana wasn't a hassle because she "stalked" someone who had finished shopping and was headed to the car.

Ivan Okuda, another shopper at Ala Moana, said the crowds weren't that bad. "I've seen worse," he said.

While his wife, Juvy, was off buying things including a Gucci bag, Okuda sought out sale items at Shirokiya, but ended up buying himself a digital camera lens adapter and video camera light that weren't on sale.

"I saw it last month and said I'd wait until after Christmas, and if it was still there I'd buy it," he said.

Reach Andrew Gomes at agomes@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8065.

Correction: Stanford Kanehiro's name was misspelled in a previous version of this story.