Gift cards and returns: What to know on this busy day for shopping

Days following Christmas some of the top selling of the year.

Traffic will be heavy at area shopping centers and malls this week as shoppers return unwanted Christmas gifts and begin spending gift cards they received during the holidays.

Area retailers said they don’t expect a slow down following the holiday shopping season that saw the largest spending increase in six years. Holiday sales increased 5.1 percent and consumers spent more than $850 billion, according to early data from Mastercard.

“The heaviest time for returns and for redeeming of gift cards is probably the week after Christmas,” said University of Dayton marketing professor Riley Dugan. “People usually don’t wait too long for that.”

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The day after and Saturday after Christmas, Dec. 26 and Dec. 29 this year, are typically two of the busiest 10 shopping days of the year, according to ShopperTrak, which evaluates online and in-store shopping patterns.

“It’s the same every year. It’s just the kids getting excited for using their gift cards, so of course that’s going to add more traffic. And people just getting organized for the new year,” said Tiffany Shope, a team leader at Target in Beavercreek.

But area shoppers who received gift cards for Christmas or plan to make returns should make sure they check the fine details before heading to the stores.

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“Make sure that you redeem the card by the expiration date,” Dugan said. “A lot of cards won’t have expiration dates or have a date that are really far in the future, but some have expiration dates that may be a few months in advance…That’s the first thing that I always look at.”

Shoppers looking for deals will likely keep finding them into February, Dugan said. Stores will be looking to move merchandise that didn’t sell during the holidays and draw in shoppers with gift cards.

“Oftentimes you would get some really good deals after Christmas as well because at that point retailers are like ‘oh my gosh, we see January and February coming up and those are the really slow months,’” Dugan said.

Stores also have different return policies, he said. Some have tighter deadlines and others may say all sales are final, but Dugan said the best chance at a full return is to keep the receipt or gift receipt.

“Having a receipt is always a good kind of security blanket to have because stores don’t have to accept returns without a receipt,” he said.

Without the receipt, shoppers may be able to exchange the item for a new size or color or get store credit, but few will be able to get cash. Store credit is also likely to only be given for the lowest price items were sold for during the holiday season.

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“These retailers are savvy, they are not going to give away the store, so to speak, through returns,” Dugan said.

Target will take returns with a receipt up to 90 days after purchase, Shope said. And if there isn’t a receipt shoppers can often get store credit.

“As long as it scans in our store, we always try to help them out,” she said.

Other stores have tighter deadlines, with fewer than 15 days to return electronics at stores like Walmart, Best Buy and Apple. Both Best Buy and Walmart made moves to make returns easier, giving 15 days from Dec. 26 to return items purchased since the end of October.

While busy Wednesday, managers at the Sugarcreek Twp. Kohl’s said returns will only become more plentiful into the weekend.

“I thought the lines were just going to be wound all around and it would take me forever to get a return made, but I went right through…I think people are recovering from yesterday,” said Anne Tant of Kettering, who was making returns at the Sugarcreek Twp. Kohl’s Wednesday.


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• Check receipts for any time limits on returns

• Don’t open a box if you want to return an item, especially if it’s an electronic. DVDs, software and other electronic items cannot be returned once they’re opened.

• Bring an ID, which is required to return items at some retailers. Some stores check your identity to make sure you’re not a serial returner

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