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A Christmas tradition: Go shopping on Dec. 26

A steady stream of shoppers wandered through the White Marsh Mall Tuesday morning in a post-Christmas tradition for many that involves returning presents, redeeming gift cards or getting a jump on next year’s holiday decorations. (Lloyd Fox/Baltimore Sun video)

Deja Duncan stayed up past midnight on Christmas, spending hours laughing and playing Monopoly with her family.

So when her alarm rang early Tuesday morning, the 23-year-old Baltimore resident wasn’t ready to budge. Then she thought about Rihanna, and jumped out of bed.

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On the day after Christmas, the singer released a new lipstick collection in her Fenty Beauty line. Duncan and her mother rushed through the doors of White Marsh Mall at 8:15 a.m., eager to secure a few shades before the popular brand sold out.

“Rihanna is the only reason I’m up this morning,” Duncan said as she perused the makeup display.

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The Duncans were among a steady stream of shoppers wandering through the the mall on Tuesday morning, a scene duplicated in retail centers across the region. For many, it’s a post-Christmas tradition to return presents, redeem gift cards, or in some cases get a jump on next year’s holiday decorations.

“The day after Christmas is always a busy day for us,” said Michele Lozanski, general manager for JC Penney’s White Marsh Mall store.

Gwyna Tillman typically gets her shopping done early on the day after Christmas, before a mad rush of people storm in. As she strolled through JC Penney about 9 a.m., she’d already been through Macy’s and planned to go on to hit Marshalls and Sam’s Club.

“I’m just trying to find the after-Christmas sales,” said the 63-year-old Baltimore resident. Tillman found herself a new pair of boots, originally $179, a steal at $46.

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About half of all consumers planned to shop for after-Christmas sales in-store this year, and 5 percent of Americans won’t buy their holiday gifts until after Christmas, according to a recent survey by the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics.

That’s what Barbara McCullough, 64, was doing Tuesday morning. Her 7-year-old granddaughter was coming into town later in the day, and McCullough wanted to pick up some new clothes for her — on sale, she hoped.

“You normally find great buys the day after Christmas because people keep returning things,” she said. “You may luck out and find what you really want at a reasonable price.”

The holiday sales season is the most important time of year for many retailers, said Cailey Locklair Tolle, president of the Maryland Retailers Association, with the average consumer spending $967 on holiday gifts and other items.

While national holiday sales are expected to go up, some Maryland retailers believe online sales, weather and the economy will affect their final numbers. Many anticipate their sales will be flat or only see a slight bump this year, Locklair Tolle said.

She said the popularity of online shopping, especially among millennials, changes the holiday landscape for many Maryland retailers. Young people often use brick-and-mortar stores as a “showroom,” looking around and trying things on before ordering what they want online, she said. People also are increasingly looking to give “experiential gifts,” she said, such as a trip, massage or fancy dinner.

A confluence of these factors “changed the day-after-Christmas sales,” Locklair Tolle said. “There’s likely less foot traffic going on.”

Still, the day after Christmas is one of the top 10 shopping days of the year, said national retail consultant Jeff Green, president of Jeff Green Partners. Across the country, he predicted strong holiday sales as consumer confidence recently rose to a 17-year high.

Besides, Green said, he expects people to redeem their holiday gift cards more quickly this year, due to concerns about financially unstable stores closing in 2018.

At Harford Mall in Bel Air, store signs advertised deep discounts or clearance sales. Kristin Blizzard, of Havre de Grace, shopped with her 9-year-old daughter, Lindsay, 7-year-old son, Nolan, and niece and nephew Cassie and Kyle Jasper, ages 13 and 9.

“The kids had money and gift cards that they had to spend today,” Blizzard said, joking that the money was “burning a hole in their pockets.” Blizzard also picked up some items for herself at Bath & Body Works that were 75 percent off.

Christmas displays were still up in JC Penney in White Marsh on Tuesday, but with sale signs plastered all around. Nutcrackers were available for 70 percent off, novelty ornaments went for $2.99 and holiday pillows sold at half price.

Agnes Lewis said she comes every Dec. 26 to find discounted decorations for the next year’s holiday season. She looked through festive garlands — once $60, now $17.99 — that she plans to buy for herself and her family. Lewis’ son just bought a new house near Catonsville, she said, and it was sadly lacking in Christmas decorations this year.

“I love a bargain,” said Lewis, 66, of Baltimore. “This here is going to add to my collection.”

Kelly Metz also goes shopping in search of discounted Christmas items every year. But this December, it seemed especially important. Metz, 32, adopted a new cat recently, and he had a habit of attacking her Christmas tree and sending the sparkling decorations tumbling to the ground.

“Half my ornaments fell off and broke,” Metz said while pushing her cart, which held a new set of silver and blue baubles, through the Target in Canton. “It’s time to prepare for next year.”

Baltimore Sun Media Group reporter Davis Anderson contributed to this article.

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