WALLA WALLA — 'Twas the day after Christmas, when all through the mall, not a car was stirring, except at Sears and Shopko's parking stalls.
"We didn't find good deals, but lines were smaller (than previous years). The return lines were short," said Diane Fowler, who was after-Christmas shopping at Shopko with her daughter, Rachel Rohan.
The day after Christmas is traditionally one of the busiest shopping days of the year, and probably the busiest to return unwanted gifts. At around noon inside the store, the customer service line -- where returns were processed -- was averaging about two people or fewer.
"I was really surprised, there were not long lines," said Ellen Taylor, who was at Shopko shopping for tennis shoes and a Mr. Potato Head set.
Throughout the store, shoppers could be seen milling about for the highly coveted 70 percent off items, which often included leftover Christmas items. But for Tracie Surran and daughter Amanda Macrie, there weren't enough leftovers this year.
"It is terrible this year. All the shelves are cleared out. We just came in looking and we didn't see anything," said Surran, who noted she and her daughter had already been to Kmart and Wal-Mart in search of marked-down items and had spent only about $10 all day.
"Usually we will spend $300 or $400, and we have not spent much this year," Surran said.
"It's good. That's good news for us," Macrie added.
On the opposite end of what remains of the Blue Mountain Mall, Sears Hardline Manager Josh Adkins said his store had a great Christmas, and was ranked in the top 25 of 926 Sears full-line departments stores nationwide.
"Our store has seen some great improvements in the last year," said Adkins, noting that one thing Sears did different this year was to offer a door-buster sale one day a week for the five weeks before Christmas, as well as the day after Christmas.
"It carried us because with each one of these door busters that we did, consecutively we had better sales," Adkins said.
Still, shoppers here also thought the after-Christmas shopping experience was not as crowded as those of Christmases past.
"I couldn't see much of a difference; I didn't see quite as many people shopping, probably because of the economy," said Elaine Hergert, who came in to return some items and was off to shop for a cell phone.