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Shoppers rush to stores for post-holiday bargains

| Friday, Dec. 27, 2013, 10:43 a.m.
Erica Dietz | Valley News Disp
Leslie Ortman, of New Kensington, takes advantage of the after-Christmas sale offered by JCPenney at the Pittsburgh Mills Mall in Frazer on Thursday, Dec. 26, 2013.
Erica Dietz | Valley News Disp
KmartsSupervisor Chelsea Artman, of Upper Burrell, and employee Josh Flinn, of Lower Burrell, exchange clothes at the Kmart in New Kensington on Thursday, Dec. 26, 2013.
Erica Dietz | Valley News Disp
Kelli Dickerson (right, holding towels) and her mother, Mary Ann Dickerson, (partially obscured by the towels) both of East Liberty, Pittsburgh wait patiently in a check-out line while shopping at the JCPenney at the Pittsburgh Mills mall in Frazer on Thursday, Dec. 26, 2013.

Shoppers had all kinds of reasons for being out and about on the day after Christmas — some buying for others, some for themselves.

Joe Davis of New Kensington was making rounds that included stops at Walgreens and Kmart. For him, after-Christmas 2013 bargains will become gifts for Christmas 2014.

“It works out real good,” he said. “You can get everything you want for next year.”

Leslie Ortman of New Kensington was armed with a $10 coupon for J.C. Penney and looking for anything on sale.

“I just wanted to shop for me,” she said. “It was my turn.”

A new coat was one of the things Ortman said she needed — and found.

“I'm going to the Steelers game on Sunday,” she said. “I'm on the 50-yard line behind the Steelers' bench.”

Snow that left an inch or two on the ground around the region overnight into Thursday morning wasn't a problem for shoppers. Roads were mostly wet as morning clouds gave way to afternoon sun.

It was a stark contrast to a year ago, when heavy snow caused Route 28 near Pittsburgh Mills mall to be closed, and stores shut down early because of the weather.

“We're busy,” said Jerry Zvonkovich, manager of Kmart in New Kensington. “People are spending their gift cards from Christmas. The snow doesn't seem to be scaring anybody away.”

Zvonkovich said his store opened at 8 a.m. as usual and had half-off deals on seasonal goods such as Christmas decorations and trees, gift wrap, toys, apparel and gift sets.

Melissa Colcagno of Arnold got waylaid by some of those deals as she made her way through Kmart to the toy section, looking to replace a Lego set for her son that is missing pieces.

Some will become gifts.

“I think you can always ‘gift' up through New Year's,” she said. “It's never too late for presents.”

Data company ShopperTrak predicts that the after-holiday crowds will be the fifth-largest of the year. Nearly 8 in 10 consumers surveyed for digital coupon marketplace RetailMeNot said they plan to shop year-end sales after the holidays.

Retailers were opening early and offering deep discounts to attract shoppers and spur sales.

“A lot of places are having clearance sales and whatnot,” said Mike Huston of Fawn, who picked up storage bins at Kmart at half-price to hold his Christmas ornaments.

J.C. Penney at Pittsburgh Mills mall opened at 7 a.m., three hours earlier than usual, offering “doorbuster” deals that were good until 1 p.m.

“It's busy. They're definitely shopping,” said Traci Kral, a member of management at J.C. Penney. “We don't see a lot of returns yet. It looks like they're spending.”

Susan Lattanzio of Harrison was ringing a bell by the Salvation Army kettle outside J.C. Penney. Over a couple hours, she saw more people walking out with stuff than they were bringing in for returns — with some taking purchases out to their cars, then going back in for more.

She even saw two walk out with Christmas trees.

“It's a busy day,” she said. “Look at the people coming out.”

Kelli Dickerson made her way to Pittsburgh Mills with family despite living in East Liberty.

“We know Monroeville was going to be crazy,” she said.

“I'd much rather come here than Monroeville,” said her mother, Mary Ann Dickerson, also of East Liberty.

Marjorie Cummings of McConnellsburg was visiting family in West Deer — and taking advantage of deals at J.C. Penney to buy wedding gifts that were on registries at other stores for much higher prices.

Cummings and her sister-in-law, Susan Walter of West Deer, had been out since 6 a.m. They traveled to Bon-Ton near Butler before heading to Pittsburgh Mills for stops at Macy's and J.C. Penney.

They said they were finding good deals, but limited selection, especially in clothes.

“The sizes are limited,” Cummings said.

Davis was among shoppers who were nervous about shopping at Target after a recent data breach that compromised credit and debit card information. He said he would go only if there was a good deal he could pay for with cash.

“I'm not using my credit card there,” he said. “I just don't trust the system now. We work too hard for our money for somebody to grab it.”

The Los Angeles Times contributed to this report. Brian C. Rittmeyer is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4701 or brittmeyer@tribweb.com.

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