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Stores stay busy after Christmas

'Tis the season to go out and return those unwanted items and shop for what you really want. The next few days will surely prove busy for retailers across the U.S. and in the Detroit Lakes area with the return lines likely being the real hot spot.

According to Consumer Reports, almost one in seven adults returned at least one of their Christmas gifts last year (with the biggest reason cited being "they're just awful") and it's estimated that those who will do it this year will spend around an hour making that happen.

But locally, that time may be reduced drastically, especially if there is a receipt included.

"It's not impossible to return items without a receipt, but let's just say it is a lot, lot easier," said Michael Norby of Norby's Department Store in Detroit Lakes, who says the receipt has a number that coincides with that exact purchase. Without it, store employees are stuck investigating the item, its price, its possible sale price and even if it was truly purchased at that store.

"Some people think that just because we sell Levis, for instance, that we will take back any pair of Levis even if they weren't sold from here," said Norby. "But that just isn't the case, and nowadays with computer technology, it's much easier to tell that sort of thing."

Most retailers will take back items without a receipt, but most will not reimburse shoppers straight out.

The local JCPenny is among the majority of retailers that will only stick that money back onto a gift card from the store.

"And then we will need a driver's license to do that as well, too," said Detroit Lakes JCPenny Lead Expert Kathy Galbrecht. "But the good thing is, our policy is that we will take back any item, any time, anywhere. So you could purchase something at any JCPenny within the country and take it back here."

Galbrecht says they really mean it when they say "any time," as they've had purchases returned 20 years after they were bought.

Gift cards are also expected to be flying in for redemption in the next few days. According to Consumer Reports, 113 million Americans received holiday gift cards, and 62 percent of adults planned to give them as gifts this year. Almost a quarter of those will go unused for more than two weeks.

And while some hold expiration dates, activation fees or penalties, Norby says what you see is what you get with theirs.

"Little stupid things like that doesn't do anybody any good, and so here, you don't have to worry about 'how are they going to get me'," said Norby, who says the popularity of gift cards continues to grow at Norby's every year.

"People can go away for months and come back and that same $50 or $100 is still going to be on the card," he said.

But many shoppers who are out and about right now aren't looking back, but looking at those clearance signs that begin to shine even more brightly than the fading holiday lights. Roughly 82 percent of those who go back for post-holiday shopping say it's for the big sales.

"After Christmas, we go into 'Winter Clearance' mode," said Norby.