BRADENTON -- Day-after-Christmas traffic got an early start Thursday, as Bradenton-area retailers opened their doors as early as 7 a.m. to kick off their annual post-holiday sales.
So much for sleeping in.
A little more than 36 hours after the Christmas Eve shopping frenzy ended, local malls found their parking lots full again as thousands of shoppers turned out for big sales. At the same time, both nationwide chains and small-shop proprietors were looking to clear out merchandise and push for better holiday sales numbers.
Jodi Mailman, owner of Create Your Own confectionery at University Town Center, said her shop exceeded its annual sales goal by close of business on Christmas Eve. Sales were so good, she said, that she offered only a 30-percent sales discount on Christmas-specific items in her store for the post-holiday sale.
Last year she offered 50 percent.
"We don't have a lot left," she said.
Deeper price cuts could be found most everywhere else. Signs advertising 50 to
70 percent off retail prices were common at both Ellenton Premium Outlets and the shops at University Town Center.
Christine Veneruso shops the post-Christmas sales every year. The Lakewood Ranch resident was looking to purchase nutcrackers for her daughter and sale-price wrapping paper for herself.
Her stops at Target, Marshalls, and Pier 1 Imports at University Town Center drew her to look at items that weren't on her list.
"I've found a few extra things," Veneruso said.
Parking was available throughout University Town Center mid-morning Thursday, and sidewalks were wide open waiting for shoppers until bigger crowds arrived mid afternoon.
That was not the case at the Ellenton mall, where cars lined up from the Interstate 75 exit on U.S. 301 all the way into the mall parking lot. Drivers waited two and three deep in the parking rows for shoppers to leave open parking slots.
Matthew Marks and his parents got into the mall early. By 11:30 a.m., the Chevy Chase, Md., high school student had both hands full of shopping bags.
Though he was taking advantage of sales to fill out his "preppy and collegiate" wardrobe, his main reason for being at the mall was a delayed flight that was to take him and his family home from their annual Gulf Coast vacation.
"I'm filling time, spending money," Marks said.
According to Sarah Ozgun, the marketing director for the 477,000-square-foot outlet mall, the 130 shops at Ellenton expected to draw thousands of people Thursday. The mall offered more specials than usual leading up to Christmas, she said, to make up for a shorter holiday shopping season.
Retailers at the mall include The Gap, Brooks Brothers, Calvin Klein, and Tommy Hilfiger. The stores opened at 7 a.m., two hours earlier than usual.
Ozgun said she could not accurately compare this year's shopping traffic to the same day last year.
The heavy shopping volumes just before and just after Christmas were anticipated. According to a survey done early this month by the Washington, D.C.-based National Retail Federation, about 50 percent of 6,324 people polled finished their holiday shopping by Dec. 9, down from about 56 percent the previous year.
According to the federation's website, a late Thanksgiving led, in part, to pent up shopper demand immediately before Christmas.
Matt M. Johnson, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7027, or on Twitter @MattAtBradenton.