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Dec. 26 has historically been a day to visit the shopping mall. One, to buy stuff on sale. And two, to exchange unwanted gifts. But sales keep moving earlier in the holiday season. So is the day after Christmas still a big deal for retailers?

“Dec. 26 is already institutionally one of the busiest shopping days of the year because it’s the busiest day for returns,” says Brian Hoyt, a spokesperson for the digital coupon company, RetailMeNot.com.

Of course, returns don’t make money for a store. In fact, the volume of returns can cause some businesses to lose money on Dec. 26.

The popularity of gift cards has been a blessing for many retailers, helping them to offset the returns.

“A lot of consumers are telling us -- about 79 percent -- that they plan to shop at these end of year sales that kick-off historically on the 26th of December," Hoyt says. "And a lot of them are going with the gift card money that they received for the holidays.”

Some industries benefit more than others. Britt Beemer is chairman and founder of the consumer research company, America’s Research Group. He points to clothing companies.

“Those retailers that rely upon that high school/teenage customer base, it’s by far their most important week of the year,” says Beemer.

Same goes for businesses that sell furniture.

“That week between Christmas and New Years for the furniture retailers is referred to by many of them as their 13th month,” says Beemer. “They’ll do as much business in those last five or six days as they did in the previous month of December.”

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Follow Jeff Tyler at @JeffMarketplace