WATERVILLE — The day after Christmas has yielded a steady flow of returns and exchanges for smaller stores in Elm Plaza in Waterville.

More than half of all shoppers say they will return or exchange items within the first month after receiving them, according to the National Retail Federation, and 80% of shoppers say they make those returns in the store versus online.

At Olympia Sports, manager Josh Clark said, “There’s always a lot of returns the day after Christmas. Not a lot changes. It’s what you expect during this time of year.”

The Waterville store escaped closure this past fall when Olympia Sports, which was founded in 1975 as one of the first retailers in the then new Maine Mall, was sold to a private investment firm in California, prompting the closure of eight stores statewide.

The franchise was sold in early October to JackRabbit, an active lifestyle retailer operated by CriticalPoint Capital. In the aftermath of the Westbrook-based retailer’s sale, stores in Bangor, Belfast, Biddeford, Farmington, Freeport, Sanford, South Paris and Wells closed.

Next door at Bull Moose, employee Emily Kitchin echoed Clark’s observations.


“There have been some returns, but pretty much the same as always,” Kitchin said.

At Sleeper’s, employee Sabrina Leton said, “It’s been pretty slow for returns. We’ve had a lot of exchanges, but maybe one actual return.”

Fellow employee Amanda Isgro said the holiday season had brought in good business, pointing out that the store was mainly a smaller, specialty store.

“We had good business throughout the season,” Isgro said. “I think it’s because it’s a specialty store. Things like Car Hart sell really well here.”

Isgro said the returns at smaller businesses, such as Sleeper’s, are easier to keep track of compared to stores like Walmart.

Sleeper’s, which sells classic outdoor and work apparel, set up shop in Elm Plaza in Waterville in 2013 and occupies the space formerly occupied by Maurice’s.

A family-owned clothing and shoe store, Sleeper’s was founded in 1914 and has one other location in Caribou.

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