Staff and wire

Traffic was heavy around retailers all over Meridian on Saturday.

Typically the day after Christmas is filled with customers returning gifts in exchange for money or alternate gifts, or taking advantage of post Christmas sales.

The scene was a familiar one everywhere in the United States Saturday.

Experts reported mixed crowds during the kickoff of the after-Christmas shopping period, which last year accounted for nearly 15 percent of holiday sales.

This year, though, some observers expect the week after Christmas to be even more important because snow storms socking the country before Christmas cut into sales.

‘‘They have plenty of time to make up for that little bit of lost momentum,’’ NPD Group analyst Marshal Cohen said. ‘‘This is going to be a good day for retailers.’’

Most retailers throughout the country received a much-needed last-minute sales surge in the final days before Dec. 25, fueled by shoppers who delayed buying, waited for bigger discounts that never came or were slowed by bad weather.

Now retailers are counting on the days after Christmas to perk up overall holiday sales in a season that looks like it’s been modestly better than last year’s disaster.

The full picture won’t be known until merchants report December sales Jan. 7. And gift card sales are not recorded until shoppers redeem them. But most expect merchants’ fourth-quarter profits should be intact because they didn’t press the panic button on deep discounts.

Research firm ShopperTrak is sticking to its prediction for a 1.6 percent gain, compared with a 5.9 percent drop a year ago.

The National Retail Federation expects that total retail sales will slip 1 percent, though some experts say that might be a bit too cautious. A year ago, they fell 3.4 percent by the trade group’s calculations.

Here's what some local shoppers were doing Saturday:

Bertha Ealey of Oxford

"I'm returning an outfit for my mother over at Lane Bryant. She claimed it was too big for her, so I'm hoping to find her a smaller size."

Shirley Noble of York, Ala.

"I'm taking this Ipod touch back to Walmart. I'm going to use the money to get my daughter a PSP that she's been wanting."

Sam Abdul of Meridian

"Actually, we did really well this Christmas, so we aren't returning anything. We've been shopping, looking for deals on shoes, and some shirts."

Stephanie Bayless of Laurel

"I haven't returned anything this year. I did go to buy one pair of shoes, and came out with five pairs instead."

Marlene Moffett of Meridian

"I only had one return at JCPenny, but nothing else. The return was really easy, I didn't have any problems. In fact, I was shocked at how the store wasn't very crowded."

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