When Cassidy Smith woke up Wednesday morning, she was determined to lighten her purse by spending some, if not most, of the 13 gift cards for stores in the Mall of Louisiana she received for Christmas.
“I wanted to spoil myself,” she laughed, while carrying American Eagle and Forever 21 bags.
Smith, 16, of Denham Springs, used the day off school to join millions of people across the country and thousands in Baton Rouge who braved the weather, the traffic and long lines at the register with hopes of snagging deals at after-Christmas sales, unloading gift cards or returning clothes that do not fit or unwanted items.
Websites for major chain stores, like Wal-Mart, Target and Kohl’s, and other websites like afterchristmasdaysales.com touted major discounts and deals across the country Wednesday in an attempt to lure shoppers who either received money for Christmas, had money left after Christmas or, like Smith, had gift cards.
While multiple stores at the mall had signs advertising 50 percent off and “buy one, get one free,” some shoppers admitted the sales were standard and none came close to Black Friday-type deals in late November they thought they might see.
Smith said that while she was interested in the sales, she was “not impressed” with them, and she was not alone in her opinion.
Crystal Robertson, 29, of Baton Rouge, said sales were nothing special and “what she expected,” and Germaine Devaillier, 45, of New Orleans, said she “found just routine discounts.”
Devaillier said she usually shops at Lakeside Shopping Center, which she did before Christmas, but she said she got bored with shopping at the same place and wanted to compare the stores and sales between Metairie and Baton Rouge.
Chris Tafaro and his family had the same idea.
Tafaro, 47, of New Orleans, said he and his family, including four family members from Boston, also decided against going to Lakeside and came to Baton Rouge instead to compare the stores and sales from both malls.
“My kids know Lakeside like the back of their hands,” he said, while watching bags so other family members could concentrate on shopping. “We’re doing returns and the kids are spending some new Christmas money.”
Parents carrying bags while pushing strollers or holding their child’s hand were prevalent since schools were closed for holiday break and some parents were still on vacation.
Sisters Katie Cassels, 24, and Lauren Renfrow, 26, both of Denham Springs, brought their children — Ava Cassels, 2, and Jackson Renfrow, 1 — with them while they returned clothes and attempted to use gift cards.
Lauren Renfrow said the crowd was not bad when compared with the Black Friday crowd she saw at the mall.
Amanda Domino, 42, of Gramercy, took her husband, Mark, 50, and sons Jacob, 11, and Caleb, 17, shopping to have a family day, while secretly hoping to land deals, which she said they did at PacSun, where they found a “buy one, get one free” sale.
But Domino later admitted the true reason for the outing was boredom.
“There is nothing at home to do,” she said.
Devrek Lain, 21, and his mother, Kim Lain, 47, both of Baton Rouge, had a similar reason for going to the Mall.
“Me and my mom just ate and we were trying to walk it off,” Devrek Lain said.
“We were bored and needed something to do,” Kim Lain added.
Devrek Lain said he was not looking for any deals in particular, but he was trying to buy video games at discount prices, because he said with the current economy, he does not buy anything at full price.
“I’m never in style or in season,” he said.
Even with Superstorm Sandy, the U.S. presidential election and the threat of the country falling off a “fiscal cliff,” the National Retail Federation, the nation’s largest retail group, said Wednesday that it’s sticking to its forecast for total sales for November and December to be up 4.1 percent to $586.1 billion this year, according to The Associated Press.
Kathy Grannis, a spokeswoman for the group, noted that the trade group’s definition of holiday sales not only includes clothes and electronics, but also food and building supplies.
“Stores have a big week ahead, and it’s still too early to know how the holiday season fared, at this point,” she said.