SEBRING - Shoppers crowded the stores Thursday to stock up on the 50-percent discounted holiday items for next Christmas, to redeem gift cards and to return or exchange gifts.
Many stores had discounts ranging from 25 percent to 75 percent off in various departments, but most shoppers were snatching up discounted holiday items such as ornaments, wrapping paper and Christmas trees.
Kmart manager Tom Tibble said there was a small crowd waiting to get in when his store opened at 8 a.m.
"We thought they might be for refunds, but everybody headed right over to the Christmas section trying to get the half-priced merchandise," he said.
Also, after Christmas there is an "uptick" in gift card redemptions, Tibble noted. "They take advantage of the special bargains with the gift card so they are getting like 'twice the bang for their buck' so to speak."
Loretta Oliveros of Lake Placid was pushing one filled cart and pulling another filled cart in Kmart.
She explained that she didn't have a Christmas tree this year, but picked out a 6 1/2 foot artificial tree along with ornaments and gift boxes to prepare for next year.
Also at Kmart, Beverly Hann of Sebring exchanged a shirt her husband received from her sister.
"She only got large and he needed an extra-large," Hann said. "I got an extra-large in the same color and everything. I lucked out."
After the exchange, Hann was going to check out the discounted wrapping paper.
"I used all but one roll to wrap my Christmas gifts so I need to stock up for next year," she said.
Joan Rulli of Sebring looked for "good deals" Thursday morning in the home department at Bealls in Lakeshore Mall.
"This is the best," she said. "We've got chocolate peppermint martini mix and that's the best."
Her shopping cart also had Christmas-related night lights, socks, napkins and rugs.
"We are just starting," Rulli said.
Jean Lambert waited in Bealls while his wife, Theresa, shopped.
"She's looking for bargains," he said.
What is she shopping for? Is there anything that you need?
"There's nothing that I need and I got what I didn't expect," Lambert said with a chuckle.
Theresa walked over to Jean and said she was looking for place matts, candles and a few more ornaments.
JC Penny Manager Victor Joy said his store opened at 7 a.m. Thursday with a good turnout, but not many returns.
"People are actually using gift cards or making additional purchases," he said.
He noticed a higher number of gift card redemptions on Thursday, Joy said.
"What I saw and what I helped ring up earlier were the younger kids with their gift cards," Joy said. A fellow called the gift cards "stocking stuffers" and he got a Nike T-shirt, which was something he really wanted.
With a gift card, size nor color matters, because the recipient will pick out exactly what they want, he said.
While the focus was on discounted holiday items, other departments such as clothing, electronics and jewelry also had a good turnout of shoppers.