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    Bargains abound, but buy quick

    Christmas items disappear first in post-holiday sales, then clothes and accessories, the experts say.

    By EILEEN SCHULTE
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published December 28, 2001


    If you feel you haven't gotten your fill of shopping yet and plan to hit the mall or a greeting card shop this weekend, we wanted to let you know what to expect.

    Pickings may be slim, but after-Christmas bargains abound.

    "Some people really stock up. They buy snowmen and Santas. Gift wrap is very popular," said Julie Consterdine, who has owned Cardsmart in Palm Harbor for four years. "They're very organized people. They pack it all away. They know where it is for next Christmas. Me, I'll pack it in a box and never find it."

    At her store, the cards are 50 percent off all year long. But that isn't good enough for some of her more thrifty-minded shoppers.

    They wait until after Christmas and buy loose cards and boxed cards for 65 percent off and gift wrap for $1.25 a roll (down from $3.98).

    Lots of people come from Tarpon Springs and Palm Harbor travel to Frank and Gina Messenger's store, Greeting Card Plus, in Holiday, to buy their holiday necessities. She remembers one older gentleman who came in and bought cards for the entire year.

    "He had 10 children, 28 grandchildren and 20 great-grandchildren," Messenger said. "He (bought cards) for the whole year. A friend helped him. He was a neat guy."

    She said the cards at her shop are two for a dollar throughout the year, but this is the week they're really "looking for a bargain."

    Beth Davis, vice president and general manager of Burdines at Countryside Mall, who has 27 years of retail experience under her belt, sees them every year.

    "The trim-a-tree stuff is gone about three hours after opening," she said.

    After depleting the store of its annual supply of Christmas items, customers move on to clothes, dressy shoes and cosmetics in anticipation of New Year's Eve parties.

    "It's a beauty bash after Christmas," Davis said.

    But they also buy things having to do with beauty sleep.

    "They always pay attention to the white items," said Davis. "Pillows, blankets, sheets and towels."

    Connie Ferreira, owner of Connie's Cards in Largo, doesn't sell those items, but she does sell Christmas cards and started marking them down from $4.50 to $3.50 a box a week before the holiday.

    Why so early?

    She wants to clear her inventory to make way for the biggest card holiday of them all: Valentines Day.

    "I've already stocked one (area) with Valentine's cards," she said.

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