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It'll be busy: Gift cards, returns and deals expected to lure shoppers today

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TGIF, right?

Doubly so if you're a retailer hoping to capitalize on the post-Christmas shopping rush.

While Dec. 26 has traditionally been a busy shopping day, experts expect a significant boost in 2014 because of the calendar, CNBC reports. Analysts predict that, with Christmas on a Thursday this year, many people will simply not go into work Friday – kicking off the buying weekend with a very busy bang.

Here's a quick look at what to expect, based on what you're heading to the stores to do.

Spending a gift card:

There's a good chance you got at least one gift card. The National Retail Federation expected a total of $31.74 billion in gift cards to be sold this year.

But oftentimes, those gift cards don't get used and go to waste. Earlier this year, the New York Post reported an estimated $44 billion in unused gift cards has been floating around since 2008.

So, if you have one for a store you don't want to go to, maybe try bringing it to Wal-Mart.

The megachain is testing a program that takes gift cards from other retailers and gives you Wal-Mart credit. Gift cards from more than 200 other retailers will be accepted.

You don't quite get full value though.

An Amazon gift card will net you 95 percent of the total (so a $100 Amazon gift card becomes $95 at Wal-Mart), with others dropping to 70 percent of face value, the Globe explains.

See the details here, on Wal-Mart's website.

Making a return:

The Star Tribune, citing numbers from the National Retail Federation, says 40 percent of present receivers will return at least one holiday gift.

That's a lot of people at the customer service desk.

USA Today has some tips for making returns as smooth (and quick) as possible. The biggies: Make sure the gift is in its original packaging, and is as close to untouched as possible, and if you're the one giving the gift, always provide a receipt.

Most major retailers offer either an extended return window during the holiday period, or some other perk, such as paying for shipping costs to return an item bought online, the Star Tribune notes.

Always do your homework to understand each store's return policy, USA Today suggests.

The rush does cause concern for some businesses. The National Retail Federation says fraud will cost retailers $3.8 billion this holiday season alone

In addition, check what you want to exchange or return. WCCO notes electronics, underwear and swimwear are often more difficult to return than other items.

Deals, deals, deals

It might as well be Black Friday II out there today.

Some businesses are offering post-Christmas discounts – Forbes says clothing and houseware items will likely feature the best deals.

Target, Best Buy and Amazon are all touting clearance deals, with many items advertised as more than half off.

Alabama.com has a list of big retailer deals, almost all of which are applicable nationwide.

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