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MERCHANTS FIND POST-CHRISTMAS SALES START SLUGGISHLY

Attempts to clear out leftover merchandise began slowly Sunday, but retailers say customers returned to the bargain hunting grounds in respectable numbers later in the day.

Store managers at Prime Outlets Niagara Falls USA said they weren't too surprised or disappointed by a morning rush that wasn't, and that things should pick up today.

"I heard it was 10 times busier last year this time,"(which was a Saturday) said Dexter Shoe clerk Anthony Tanzini.

Sunday started off without a bang, said Tanzini and his co-workers Jason Sorice and Mike Agnello, but the young men agreed things would probably get a little busier later in the afternoon.

"It usually gets busy by 4 p.m. on a Sunday, but I think tomorrow will be better because Boxing Day falls on a Sunday, so they'll get Monday as vacation," Sorice said.(Boxing Day, Dec. 26, is a legal holiday in most of the British Commonwealth. Its name comes from the former custom of giving boxed gifts to employees and public servants such as mailmen.)

Canadian stores are usually closed on Sunday, but many were open for the after-Christmas Canadian holiday.

"I figured it would be slower than last year," said Mary Holinka, a manager at Nancy's Coffee Cafe. "It's Sunday here. A lot of people go to church around here and families are still here for the last day of vacation. Plus, I hear stores are open for Boxing Day in Canada."

Mall traffic may have been sluggish earlier in the day, but people still came out for their cup of coffee.

"I thought since it was Sunday, it would be slower, but we had customers lining up at the door when we opened at 8 a.m.," Holinka said.

A very different scene greeted employees at the Old Navy clothing retailer. "It started off slow, but by the afternoon, it picked up considerably and I expect it to last," said Melissa Miller. "We'll be busy for the rest of the day, us and the Gap, the two busiest stores."

Malls have to compete with discount department stores for customers, another reason the mall was pretty dead Sunday afternoon, said Renee Bonta, a manager at Pfaltzgraff.

"It's dead this morning. A lot of people are at Wal-Mart and Ames. They opened a lot earlier. We didn't open until 10 a.m.," Bonta said.

Prime Outlets apparently wasn't the only mall to get off to a slow start. Store managers at Walden Galleria in Cheektowaga had similar reports.

"It was a little slow this morning, and I think that's because Walden doesn't advertise its hours, and people thought we'd be open later, but we were open at 8 a.m., but we're very, very busy now," she said later in the afternoon.

Shoppers may have been a rare commodity in some areas, but the Jolson family was well represented. More than a dozen family members from all over the world gathered in Niagara Falls not only for Christmas Day, but to shop the day after, said Lillian Jolson of the Town of Niagara. Together with her four sons, their wives and children and other relative, it's a family tradition everyone looks forward to.

"We have family come in from California. Two of my sons flew in from Germany with my brand-new grandson," she said. "Every year for the past 20 years, we go shopping the day after Christmas. Sometimes we return gifts or exchange presents, but a lot of years we just come out to see the decorations."

Jenna Sinclair came to the mall with her 2-year-old daughter, Destiny to enjoy the Christmas lights and decorations, too.

"She loves Christmas lights, and I like it because it's not the same hustle and bustle just before Christmas, but usually it's just as many people.

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