Christmas Is Over, Return Time Is Here

Christmas is over. Return time is here.

All the extra-extra-large sweatshirts you didn't want and the too-small bracelets that just didn't fit have to go back to the store. Or, maybe Wednesday was just more "buy time," as many Bay Area shoppers were out simply to get more stuff for themselves.

"I actually waited until the day after Christmas because the sales are astonishingly unbeatable," Janet Bosnich of San Rafael said while out shopping for herself in San Francisco's Union Square.

"We expect the day after Christmas to be extra busy," said Amy Benson, marketing spokeswoman for the Westfield Shopping Center in San Francisco. She added that most shoppers would be out looking for deals, ready to use their gift cards, and making returns for unwanted purchases.

On Wednesday, some stores opened as early as 5 a.m. so that early-birds could get to the malls super early with their gift receipts in hand.

"I have a gift I need to return, Jean Mathews said outside a San Jose Kohl's before the sun came up on Wednesday. "It wasn't me. Let's just put it that way."

Valley Fair Mall in San Jose opened at 7 a.m., which was busy at that early hour. Jay Dannen told NBC Bay Area he actually liked most of his gifts and had only one exchange to make. He was out shopping, he said, mostly to get the new Air Jordan sneakers.

Reports indicate that consumers are expected to return $62.7 billion in merchandise bought during the holidays.

Data experts already said that holiday retail sales were weak this year.  Economists are blaming a number of events including, bad weather, the presidential election and the recent elementary school shooting in Newtown, Conn.

Holiday-related sales rose 0.7 percent from Oct. 28 through Dec. 24, as compared to last year, according to data from Mastercard Advisors SpendingPulse, NBC News reported. That survey showed a 2 percent increase in 2011. The SpendingPulse data is based on estimates of payments made through the MasterCard network as well as by cash and check. Research firm ShopperTrak, which compiles sales estimates based on foot traffic, said last week that it expects holiday sales to increase by 2.5 percent. That’s down from its previous estimate that sales would increase by 3.3 percent.

Retailers were hoping that return-day would give them an extra boost. When people return, they often buy, too. And those numbers will be added to the current sales figures, which could turn a grim economic outlook into a positive one. 

“The next few days are critical for retailers. They’ve got some catching up to do,” said Marshal Cohen, retail industry analyst with NPD Group, told NBC News.

Consumer Reports is offering five tips for easy returns: Don't open the box if you want to return the item, keep all gift receipts, check the store return policy and note any time limits, bring your ID, and know your options.
NBC Bay Area's Damian Trujillo, Kim Tere and Cheryl  Hurd contributed to this report.

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