For Hiroyuki Sakata of Tokyo the regular prices at Fashion Valley clothing stores would have provided great buys compared to the cost of the same items at home, given the strength of the Japanese yen against the dollar.
Throw in the after-Christmas discounts that began on Saturday, and Sakata found the bargains irresistible, from tennis shoes to aerobic wear.
Even for American shoppers, the after-Christmas sales proved strong lures and they along with Sakata crowded county shopping malls Saturday, providing smiles to merchandisers and consumers alike despite packed parking lots, long lines at cash registers and fierce competition for particular items such as heavily discounted Christmas cards.
The crowds throughout San Diego County were duplicated elsewhere in Southern California, with malls in Los Angeles and Orange counties also reporting heavy traffic. But elsewhere throughout the country, shoppers apparently did not open their pocketbooks as freely, according to national reports.
Biggest Day of Year
In San Diego, Fashion Valley operations manager Rob O'Sullivan reported the biggest day of the year, with heavy crowds even when the first stores opened at 8 a.m.
"It's been steady all day, and I would not want to try and even buy a parking space," O'Sullivan said.
"The day has been absolutely fabulous," Nordstrom store manager Richard Chilcott said. "It's been quite a bit more in the morning than we thought we would have, much busier than the day after Thanksgiving."
Chilcott said the fact that the day after Christmas fell on a Saturday this year probably contributed to the strong turnout because most people did not have to go to work.
"People are hitting the sales, especially the men's department, which is the busiest area today," he said.
Haneko Konishi brought her teen-age granddaughter Andee shopping at Nordstrom but could not help but be impressed by the number of shoppers in the men's department.
"It seems that some people must buy all their dress shirts for the year during sales like this," she said.
Cashier Dawn Brown at the Highlander men's store said ties and sweaters were moving fast. "We're doing very, very well. We're quite busy, but we're having a good time," she said. "And most people are here for the sales. We haven't had many exchanges; I think those people wait a couple of days for the crowds to thin out. . . . Most people are here buying the things they wished they had gotten as gifts but didn't."
Mall managers at University Towne Centre in La Jolla and at North County Fair in Escondido also said that their crowds appeared to the biggest of the year.
"There's no parking here . . . it takes you about 20 minutes to find a spot," said Karen Ashby at the lottery booth at North County Fair. "And Lotto is selling well, too."
Stocking Up on Cards
Numerous shoppers were stocking up on Christmas cards at the Grandma's Hallmark shop at University Towne Centre. "People come in, look around at what is on sale, and buy," said sales clerk Anh Pham.
Patricia Freeouf, store manager at the center's Slavick Jewelers, said that many people were pricing sale watches and jewelry, although not necessarily buying on Saturday.
"I think that today people are more interested in buying clothes," she said. "We are not as busy as we were the couple of days before Christmas, but we are busier than I thought we would be."
Freeouf explained that competition is heavy at University Towne Centre, with 10 other stores competing with Slavick's. "I think that people want to know what is on sale here (and compare) with the other stores," she said.
David Deng, owner of Arts of Asia at Grossmont Center, found business about the same as last year, in large part, he said, because upscale specialty stores cannot afford to mark down sales merchandise as much as large department stores.
"I did a little ahead of last year for the Christmas season," said Deng, who does little advertising and depends on repeat customers and word-of-mouth for his business.
At Horton Plaza downtown, shoppers needed patience to find an empty parking space in the multistoried parking garage. Georgia Dunaway found her parking place more quickly by avoiding the popular 4th Avenue entrance and entering the complex off G Street.
Dunaway also found bargains in the Mexican Christmas ornaments being sold off the portable push carts in the open areas of Horton Plaza. The ornaments, $3 each before Christmas, were going for $1 each with a free ornament thrown in with every $5 purchase.
"The sales girl told us that it costs her $600 a week to rent the cart during the holidays compared to only $250 a week for the rest of year," Dunaway said.
Sampled All Centers