Droves of local shoppers hit the stores today to not only return merchandise but to find after-Christmas deals, which made some Aiken retailers feel optimistic as the holiday shopping season wraps up.

According to The Associated Press, holiday retail sales are projected to be the weakest since 2008. Consumers have been cautious with their spending this year as concerns about the economy continue. Some of the blame was placed on bad weather around the country like the recent winter storm hitting the midwest, deterring last minute shoppers or the impact of Superstorm Sandy on the northeast, which experienced a 1.4 percent decline in retail sales during the holidays, the AP said.

Despite the weakening sales reported around the country, many retail stores across Aiken felt this was a positive holiday shopping year and had a steady flow of customers Wednesday to exchange items, use gift cards and seek out after-Christmas deals.

Employees at the Aiken Target kept busy as they pushed baskets of returned merchandise back to the floor and helped customers with exchanges. Target didn't have much of a line at its returns desk Wednesday afternoon as small waves of customers periodically popped in, handed over their items with their receipts and then started browsing the aisles.

Some customers even came back to the exchange desk with more items than they had returned.

“The traffic has been steady – a little more busy than on an average day,” said Human Resources Manager Paul Lynch.

Stuart Walker, a manger of GameStop on Whiskey Road, came into work Wednesday afternoon to a long line of customers. He said there are two reasons why they stay so busy on the day after Christmas – returns and gift cards.

“The 26th is the busiest day of the year,” Walker said, adding that it's busier than Black Friday and the days leading up to Christmas for the gaming store.

Roses in Kalmia Plaza was also busy Wednesday. Store Manager Brooks Mills said they had a few returns but haven't had as many as past years.

“They've been buying a lot and returning a little,” Mills said.

According to the National Retail Federation, approximately $62 billion of merchandise will be returned across the country.