‘Tis the season to exchange and grab bargains

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 27, 2000

McRae’s sales clerk Tammy Emerson scans the price for a candle as customer Juliet Lee, second from right, helps bag purchases to speed up transactions for customers waiting in line at the department store Tuesday, the day after Christmas. (The Vicksburg Post/MELANIE DUNCAN)

[12/27/00] With 364 days left until Christmas, cash registers were humming at Vicksburg stores Tuesday.

Shoppers exchanged gifts, used gift certificates and spent Christmas money at stores from Pemberton Square to Wal-Mart, downtown and the outlet stores, stacking up their wares in front of cashiers and packing parking lots. Across the city, it was a scene duplicated across the country.

Vicksburg Factory Outlets manager Margaret Gilmer said most of her stores benefited from a wave of out-of-town shoppers visiting the city.

“I was talking to one of my stores, and the person there said the first 10 or 15 people they had were from out of town,” Gilmer said. “It was very busy.”

Alice Hebler, owner of Paper Plus, said business was also brisk at her downtown store.

“About three people met me at the door when I got to work,” Hebler said. “So it turned out being a really good day.”

At the mall, after-Christmas sales drew hordes of customers to department stores.

“It’s been very, very busy in certain departments and not quite as bad in others,” said Holly Kennedy, manager of the homewares department at Dillard’s. “My department is really busy because all of the Christmas ornaments are marked down.”

Ornaments were also hot items at McRae’s, where check-out lines slowed noticeably whenever a customer bought one. Clerks at the store wrapped each ornament individually, making long waits for back-of-the-line patrons.

For Juliet Lee, a Wilmington, N.C., resident visiting family in Vicksburg, the clogged stores presented opportunities to see old faces.

“I’m just getting out of the house for a while,” Lee said, lugging a bag full of Christmas decorations. “I want to see people I can’t see every day.”

Other than buying, shoppers also got out of the house to return presents.

Wal-Mart SuperCenter tried to relieve the exchange pressure by designating seven checkout lanes refund-only. In some cases, it didn’t help that much in easing the wait.

“It was very hectic,” said Cassandra Lee, who returned clothes for her daughter. “I had to wait in the refund line for about 30 minutes.”

Other customers said their experience at Wal-Mart ran smoothly because of help from store managers.

“They helped us a lot,” said Peggy Flowers, who was returning a desk with her husband, Wally. “The manager came out and helped us get the desk off the truck.”

Shoppers also packed Pemberton Square in search of exchanges.

Annabeth Freeman, a college senior home for the holidays, said she was at the mall to return a watch.

“The one that Santa Claus brought me didn’t fit,” she said.

Ashley Shelton, also a college student, said she came out to shop for her younger brother.

“I’m going to Bath and Body Works for me, then I’m going to get him a game at Electronic Boutique with his money,” Shelton said. “He didn’t feel like leaving the house.”