Thousands of bargain hunters swarm Tahoe stores |

Thousands of bargain hunters swarm Tahoe stores

Some would say that Christmas reveals the peaks and valleys of life around the holidays – much like the terrain of Lake Tahoe.

There’s the rush of last-minute shoppers to get the right thing under the tree on Christmas Eve. Then, the traditional lull of gift unwrapping Christmas morning and overeating that afternoon gives way to the busy second wave of bargain hunters shopping the day after.

“I knew it would be crowded,” South Shore resident Shirley Harada said Tuesday, loading her car in the Factory outlet at the “Y.”

She hit a number of stores that afternoon to either shop for good deals or return an unwanted item.

Appearing more organized than the average shopper, Harada lined her trunk with bags of varying shapes – showing an uncanny ability in spatial relations.

But Harada isn’t the everyday shopper. She plans ahead, scoring the bargain-basement deals on Christmas decorations and cards for next year.

The out-of-towners were more apt to meander.

“We’re just looking around,” Terri Blanchard said, admitting her Fresno family was holding out for bargains. “We didn’t think it would be so bad. We thought everybody would be skiing.”

Also at the “Y” at midday, a clan of 13 relatives from Minnesota, Texas and Wisconsin seemed as noncommittal as the airlines during the holidays – taking a few minutes to decide where to go next.

Across U.S. Highway 50, another strategy session was taking place inside Kmart, where three managers were plotting who was covering what shift during the South Lake Tahoe shopping hotspot’s dollar days promotion Tuesday.

Before Christmas, the major discount retailer had just finished its 86-hour holiday sale and hunkered down for busy checkout lines and a bustling counter accepting returns. This was demonstrated by a “Refunds and Exchanges” sign on the front door.

The management team expects more returns during the upcoming weekend because many people had to go back to work Tuesday.

The retailer swung its door open at 6 a.m. with a few people at the entrance. Four hours later though, one manager said a flood of people hit the shelves, in line with droves of shoppers across the nation on the prowl Dec. 26.

“Stores are looking for a big week,” said John Knoarski, vice president of research at the International Council of Shopping Centers. “This could give them the final push to eke out extra sales.”

Nearly 11 percent of last year’s holiday buying took place during the week after Christmas, according to the shopping center group.

“Retailers are hoping that consumers will pick up a few new spring merchandise items as they steal some bargains in the store,” said C. Britt Beemer, president of America’s Research Group in Charleston, S.C.

Many e-commerce Web sites are also stepping up discounts to attract consumers looking for sales.

Online sales appeared to recover during the pre-Christmas sale period, generating $1.6 billion, up from $1.5 billion the prior week, according to a joint study released by PC Data and Goldman Sachs.

Among the inventory-clearing online offerings, Kmart Corp.’s is providing discounts of up to 75 percent off.

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