Consumers may be taking it easy after Christmas this year

By Joe Bennett

December 26, 2012 Updated Dec 26, 2012 at 8:27 PM CDT

PEORIA, Ill -- From Black Friday to this year's white Christmas, the month has been busy for most, and the day after Christmas is typically expected to be just as hectic.

Judging from the crowds Wednesday morning, the time of giving and returning may be a little more laid back this year.

"Actually, I was surprised," said Caroline McMillan of Peoria. "I was telling my daughters I couldn't believe how empty the parking lots were and the roads were. I don't know if many people are working or if they're not out at this time or just not here."

Since Christmas landed early in the week, people may be crowding the stores for the next couple of days.

So, if you still have to make purchases or exchanges, the sooner the better.

"We did it earlier to try and get away from the crowds just to get it done," said Nicole Sanders of Pekin.

Her mother gave her a coffee pot, which she already owns.

They came back to Target in Peoria to exchange the gift for cash she can use elsewhere in the store.

While some are here out of necessity or urgency, others are shopping voluntarily and braving the chaos to take advantage of the Christmas deals.

There seems to be more traffic by the Christmas decorations than there was on the roads.

One may think it would be nice to unwind after the holidays, but East Peoria native Lindsay Soliman is already preparing for 2013.

"It's half off, so at least it's worth it," Soliman said. "Usually we like to hit up Hobby Lobby and all of those that are 80 or 90 percent off, but my mom and I are just together for the weekend, so we're heading out now."

If you head out to do the same, retailers have a few reminders.

Be sure to bring proof of purchase, even if you have to request a gift receipt.

Expect long waits in line and try not to get to bogged down by the post-Christmas rush.

If you find yourself getting frustrated with all of the running around, take a few deep breaths and just try to maintain the holiday spirit a little longer.