It was better to buy than to return on the day after Christmas in Lexington.
Stores in and around Fayette Mall attracted a steady flow of customers, but most were carrying bags and boxes out rather than hauling in unwanted or ill-fitting Christmas gifts.
"(There were) not many returns this year. And not many people standing in lines," said Donna Grayson of Tollesboro in Lewis County, who was waiting to be picked up outside the mall with her granddaughter, Allison Voyles, 10.
They hit up the sale at Bath & Body Works for three shopping bags worth of lotions, perfumes and hand soap. And Grayson said she was pleasantly surprised the crowds weren't worse.
"We figured it was going to be a lot busier," she said.
Some of the specialty stores in the mall did have checkout lines of 15-minute waits or more during the early-afternoon peak time.
"The more expensive places are having big sales," said Devan Karr, 16, of Laurel County, as she waited toward the end of a checkout line in Hollister Co. that stretched to nearly the front of the store. Karr found two pairs of jeans on sale — a rarity at the Southern California-style clothier for teens.
"I think it's worth the wait," added Mariah Smiley, 17, of Harrison County. She stood behind Karr eagerly waiting to buy a white hooded sweatshirt she found on sale.
Nicholas Kidd, a 7th grader from Monticello, said he was excited to spend part of his Christmas money on a couple of Hollister shirts.
His financial strategy after his holiday windfall: spend half, save half.
He and his mom, Katherine Kidd, said they, too, were surprised to get a parking spot near the front and not to have to fight through a thicker crowd.
"I'm sure it's the economy," Katherine Kidd said. "People probably have budgets and they spent their budgets before Christmas."
Fewer returns also may have helped.
At Macy's, store manager Tom Bruenderman said he was "pleased" at the day after Christmas business, which had drawn a steady flow of customers since the store opened at 6 a.m. They also left fewer empty gift boxes in their wake as evidence of fewer returns this year.
"It seems people have bought a little bit more wisely," he said.
Lines through most of the store extended two or three customers deep.
Across Reynolds Road at Target, the parking lot wasn't filled and lines moved swiftly, even at the returns counter. Customers seemed to gravitate toward the electronics sections for iPods and Nintendo Wii games as well as to the Christmas decorations, which were on clearance, said Ashley Addo, one of the store's managers.
"They're getting ready for next year, I guess," Addo said.