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Sonoma County shoppers turn out for post-Christmas returns, exchanges

  • on Wednesday, 12 26, 2012. Best Buy employee Chris Wagy, right, helps Maurilio Gonzalez of Santa Rosa as he exchanges a television for another product, Wednesday Dec. 26, 2012 at Best Buy in Santa Rosa. at left is Maurilio's son-in-law Jonathan Lopez. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat) 2012

Five-year-old Brandon Velasco waited in line Wednesday afternoon at Best Buy in Santa Rosa, eager to return his main Christmas gift — an $80 children's tablet.

"It's boring," he said, speaking in Spanish, holding the boxed item in his arms. "I want a remote control car."

His father, Hermelindo Velasco, said Brandon loves to play on a regular computer and found the tablet far too rudimentary.

Father and son were part of the next chapter of the holiday shopping saga, the one defined by returns, exchanges and gift card redemption. It's what makes the day after Christmas one of the busiest shopping days of the year.

"Today is an important day in the whole holiday calendar," Bill Martin, founder of ShopperTrack, a Chicago-based company that tracks retail traffic. "Typically it's been a strong day and we expect today would be in the top 5-to-10 shopping days."

Martin said that Dec. 26 is also when retailers hope that people begin redeeming gift cards. Money from the sale of gift cards are not considered revenue until they are exchanged for merchandise, he said.

"They want them cashed out because it's a liability on their books," Martin said.

At a busy Treehorn Books in downtown Santa Rosa, many of the shop's customers were redeeming gift certificates, said Grant Hotaling, whose father co-owns the store. There were no returns or exchanges, he said.

Although retail foot-traffic had been increasing in the lead up to Christmas, ShopperTrack reported that traffic and sales were down from the same period last year. Foot traffic declined by 4.4 percent from last year while sales dropped 4.3 percent.

On Wednesday, Tom Hakel of Santa Rosa and his daughter Jenna stopped by Best Buy to return a laptop she had received for Christmas. Hakel bought two of the same laptops, one for Jenna and one for his son.

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