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Lydia Guzman from Pleasant Hill stands in line at Macys at Sunvalley Mall in Concord, Calif., taking advantage of some of the after-Christmas sales on Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2012. She says she is shopping for the things she did not get for Christmas. (Laura A. Oda/Staff)

The day after Christmas -- traditionally a frenzied day of deal-seeking shoppers dashing from store to store, mall to mall -- had a subdued beginning, but retailers trying to make up ground lost during the sluggish holiday shopping season rolled out big discounts that eventually dragged out Bay Area shoppers.

Consumers arrived later and moved more slowly than they had during the last-minute shopping frenzy before Christmas: At 7 a.m. Wednesday, when the mall opened, parking lots at the mammoth Westfield Valley Fair in Santa Clara were virtually empty. At Sunvalley Shopping Center in Concord, morning shoppers sipped coffee and strolled through stores much less crowded than they had been two days earlier.

"Shoppers like to sleep in here," said Sunvalley marketing director Kim Trupiano.

Still, consumers eventually mustered enough energy to hit sales that eclipsed even some Black Friday deals, as stores like Talbots, Macy's and Nordstrom had slash-downs aplenty. By noon the wide hallways at Valley Fair were thick with shoppers, though many were free of the giant shopping bags and seemed more interested in looking than buying. And come lunchtime in Walnut Creek, the downtown shopping plaza was as mobbed with shoppers as it had been the final days before Christmas.

Many shoppers were in the stores Wednesday to get items still on their wish list, Trupiano said.

Lydia Guzman of Pleasant Hill was at Macy's buying the sweater she had asked her family for.


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"Kids don't listen to what you want," she said.

At Fry's Electronics in Concord, shoppers fought off post-Christmas fatigue to nab discounted laptops, tablets, games and Apple (AAPL) products, with many arriving early to pick up gadgets they'd bought online Tuesday, when Fry's had its one-day Christmas sale.

Phoumy Sayavong of Rodeo loaded the back of his car with laptops, speakers and new software that had been marked down $100 or more. The sales Wednesday, he said, were better than any he'd seen before Christmas.

Michelle Johnson of Concord arrived just after 9 a.m. to pick up a game console she had reserved online Tuesday, while Bruce McGurk came from Orinda to collect an Apple TV device he bought online Tuesday at 20 percent off.

MasterCard Advisors SpendingPulse reported Tuesday that sales of electronics, clothing, jewelry and home goods in the two months before Christmas increased less than 1 percent from 2012, far below the growth of 3 percent to 4 percent for which retailers had hoped.

That is the worst since 2008, when the recession caused consumers to sharply rein in their spending.

Retailers are heavily discounting remaining items in a desperate attempt to boost revenues after the largely disappointing holiday shopping season, hampered by fiscal cliff worries, the trauma of the Connecticut school shootings and terrible weather.

But retail analysts warned that stores that live by the deals in the run-up to Christmas run the risk of turning consumers into full-time sales-shoppers.

"I'm just looking around to see what's nice and cheap," Mary Solis, a San Jose nursing home supervisor, said while eating a crepe at Valley Fair before hitting the stores.

"Sixty percent off -- you see that before Christmas," unenthusiastic shopper Beth Manlapaz said. She expected to mostly window-shop, because "It's not that much different from previous sales."

The discounts will continue through the end of the year, as retailers work to shed fall and winter merchandise.

"All this stuff is going. If you can believe it, we're going to have swimwear on the shelves soon," said Erin McKinney, assistant manager of the Disney Store at Sunvalley.

The discounts blasted on every store window and clothing rack hint at the makings of a new retail landscape in which big sales are no longer reserved for holidays, but are a necessary year-round tactic for brick-and-mortar to keep up the fight against online retail.

Shoppers out on Boxing Day were a mix of discount-seekers, gift-card users and those returning gifts for exchanges.

"I had a couple of returns and my wife wanted to go shopping," said Kevin Anderson, as he strolled through the hallways of Valley Fair.

Patricia Kruse, a Cupertino school administrator, came to the mall with her husband to return some shoes -- he brought back a pair of Cole Haan shoes purchased at full price at Macy's. They then bought a pair of the same brand at a dramatically lower cost at Nordstrom.

"Now we are going to look at what else is on sale," she said.

Shoppers weren't interested only in self-gifting, and the spirit of giving was still alive and well the day after Christmas. Louise and Lloyd Lawson of Pittsburg were shopping at Fry's for electronics that were either free or cheap after rebate, and said they will donate them to organizations like Pillars of Hope, a Northern California nonprofit that helps girls rescued from human trafficking.

The Lawsons don't exchange gifts, Louise said, because they're at a place in life where they've "already got everything."

Mercury News staff writer Jeremy Owens and The Associated Press contributed to this report. Contact John Boudreau at 408-278-3496; follow him at Twitter.com/svwriter. Contact Heather Somerville at 925-977-8418; follow her at Twitter.com/heathersomervil.