Hannah Steele, 8, browsed the toy aisle at Target on Wednesday, eager to spend her Christmas money.
She already had chosen a Barbie car, but she and her mother, Kristy, continued to search the shelves for toys, some of which are on sale for the post-Christmas retail season.
The Steeles, of Larksville, weren't alone. Customers looking to make returns and exchanges are the norm at almost every store the day after Christmas.
Most stores saw the rush between mid-morning and lunchtime hours – ahead of Wednesday's snowstorm – as shoppers bought everything from clothing and Christmas decorations to workout gear and tech supplies.
Whether it was families, teens or couples, the goals were the same: Find after-Christmas sales and exchange or return items.
This is better than Black Friday, said Kristy Steele, 35. We always wait until the day after Christmas; I take the day off from work and we spend mommy-daughter time.
Target Manager Cole Shimer said about 50 people were waiting outside the store Wednesday – before it opened at 7 a.m. – to make returns and use gift cards. The big thing is gift card redemption, he said. This is one of our heavier sales days.
Tech items, such as the iPad, were popular Christmas gifts, and customers at Best Buy swarmed the computer tablet and MP3 sections. People are upgrading devices they got and getting accessories, said Best Buy Manager Phil Walter.
The National Retail Federation reports the holiday season will represent 20 to 40 percent of retailer's annual sales.
Stores were busy as soon as they opened.
It was busier around 10 or 11, after breakfast, said Alex Djokic, a manager at J.C. Penney's. People exchange early to get the right size before it's gone.
Matt Camella, store manager at Schuylkill Valley Sports at Wyoming Valley Mall, agreed. This happens every year. There are always size errors, said Camella, of older family members buying for the younger generation and vice versa.
Although some customers planned only to make a return, it was hard for some shoppers to avoid a good sale and the signs touting 50 percent off.
Well, I came to return a few of my daughter's gifts, but I also saw a few things for my granddaughter, said Joe Spak of Wilkes-Barre, who walked out of Boscov's in Wilkes-Barre with two large clothing bags.
Despite the returns, some shoppers, including Pete Palmentere, were more than excited to shop the day after Christmas, especially because they could use gift cards. I came here because I'm a huge sports fan and I got a gift card to the store, said Palmentere, a Philadelphia sports fan from Harveys Lake. I'm like a kid, so I want to get out and spend it.
In general, employees had expected the large crowds, but many of the store managers said the weather would affect their evening turnout.