TO SHOP WHEN PRICES DROP; BUYERS SWARM YEAR-END SALES.
Thirty early-bird shoppers pressed eagerly against the glass doors of Mrs. Anderson's Personalized Treasures early Friday, waiting for the first shot at slashed prices on Christmas decorations.
Lori Bowe stood at the back of the crush, keeping an eye on a $349 wooden nativity scene on the other side of the glass - the one item she was willing to brave the crowds to buy.
``I want this nativity scene, but only if it's marked down enough,'' she said as her husband went off to buy bagels and coffee to sustain them during an hourlong wait. ``We usually don't shop the day after Christmas because it's always so crowded and we're burned out on spending money.''
Apparently that sentiment was not shared by most of the shoppers who arrived at The Oaks shopping center as early as 7 a.m., ready to join the post-Christmas stampede for red-tag sales and deep discounts.
``We always hit the day-after-Christmas sales,'' said Donna Beckman, who brought her 7-year-old son, Scott. ``We all got money (for Christmas) so we're out spending it today.''
By 8 a.m., Helen Shores of Newbury Park already was carrying two bags of half-price sweat shirts and jogging outfits as she left Robinsons-May to go to work at a Chinese restaurant in Westlake Village.
``I love shopping in the morning because there's less traffic and you don't have to worry about parking,'' said Shores.
But the parking lot was soon filled with harried motorists using horns, hand gestures and other tactics to jockey for precious parking stalls.
Inside the mall, the scene was more civilized but no less crowded.
The Disney Store drew an early line of about 75 people, including Pamela Brown of Thousand Oaks, who left in disgust soon after the doors opened at 9 a.m.
``You can't move. The store's too crowded,'' said Brown. ``And then you have to stand in line for a half-hour. I don't need anything that bad.''
Tom Dawes, a Newbury Park resident and basketball coach at the local high school, sat on a planter outside Macy's, watching with amusement as shoppers darted about.
``They're nuts,'' he said. ``They go crazy over nothing. They think they can get a big bargain but you can probably get the same kind of sales before Christmas as after, except on maybe gift wrapping.''
Dawes was visiting the shopping center to exchange an ill-fitting sweater. His wife, Nancy, was there to make an exchange, too, but she also found time to pick up some new items and socialize with a friend she had not seen in years.
Chance social encounters were common at The Oaks, which attracted people from throughout Ventura County like metal filings to a magnet.
``I noticed today was much busier than the day after Thanksgiving,'' said Linda Sheridan, a customer service representative for The Oaks. ``It was incredible. Normally, I can get a parking space, but today I had to search around for a while.''
The bargain hunters clearly outnumbered those returning gifts, and often there was no distinction between the two crowds.
For 15-year-old Kristi Konish of Thousand Oaks, clothes from grandparents would soon be converted to compact discs.
``We use the money we get from returning to go out and buy more stuff,'' she said.
PHOTO (1--Color) Jan Morales and her 11-year-old daughter, Lauren, look at holiday ornaments in the post-Christmas sale at the Cost Plus store in Westlake Village.
(2--Color) Barbara Kiely loads up Friday on half-price wrapping and bows for 1998 at a Target store in Simi.
(3) Raising his bargain high, a shopper threads his way through the crowd Friday in Simi.
Bob Halvorsen/Daily News