JENNIE GREY, The Saratogian

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. -- From downtown Saratoga to the Wilton Mall, and all the stores in between, late holiday shoppers, early returners, gift-card recipients and bargain buyers descended with wallets in hand to continue their holiday spending.

Northshire Bookstore at 424 Broadway was downright crowded, with many shoppers still selecting Christmas gifts. Three sisters, Kathy Cleary of Saratoga Springs, Pat Green of Houston and Diane Streit of Greenfield stood in the children’s classic sections, pulling books off the shelves to page through them.

"We’re shopping for our nieces and nephews now," said Green, an English teacher. "One nephew is 6, and one niece is 2."

Cleary, a special education teacher, had already bought "Charlotte’s Web" for the little boy and Richard Scarry’s "Cars, Trucks and Things that Go" for the toddler.

"We try to give them classic books," she said.

Green examined the Victorian children’s book "Tales from Shakespeare."

"He could read it when he’s older," she said to Cleary. "Or maybe ‘The Wizard of Oz’?"

The women had made the 26th a sisters’ day out. Next would come pedicures and drinks, Streit said.

Northshire, new to Saratoga, had enjoyed a wonderful holiday season, said general manager Nancy Scheemaker, who was busy with five projects at once on the day after Christmas.

"The people here were faithful to our bookstore," she said. "They came in to shop with good cheer and bought lots of books. It was a great first Christmas for us. We hope everyone will continue to come on in right through the winter."

Over at 27 Church St., Spoken Boutique owner Pam Worth agreed that it had been a fine season. Her women’s clothing store had benefitted from the opening of Bow Tie Cinemas’ Criterion Cinemas Saratoga, an 11-screen theater on the corner of Church and Railroad Place, right across the street from Spoken. Families and groups of friends now came into her store after their movie matinees.

"For me, the best Christmas present was that theater," Worth said, laughing.

She noticed more people had bought actual merchandise from her this year rather than gift cards. Customers seemed to want a present done up in a box with tissue paper and bows, she said.

While she talked, three women who had just seen "Philomena" came into the store from the theater. Worth greeted them and watched them walk around the store before they left.

"Everyone is in a retail coma right now," she said. "Their credit card bills are coming in. But they still come shop -- there are sales, and a new season is coming."

While Saratoga winter turned the landscape gray outside, Worth was ready to sell hot-pink sweaters.

One fortunate customer, Carolyn Accardi of Glens Falls, was shopping with a niece for an upcoming cruise vacation. Accardi made one exchange and then tried on garments to bring to sunnier climes.

At 307 Broadway in national store Talbots, shoppers also looked through the racks of women’s clothes. Susan Moore-Palumbo of Saratoga Springs had come with her sister to return a Christmas present. Moore-Palumbo held several pairs of pants to wear to work, she said.

"Talbots is a good place to shop because of its sizing," she said. "Also now, you can get a formerly full-priced item on sale."

A Talbots manager said the holiday season had gone well, with sweaters being big sellers, and are burning a hole in people’s pockets.

Gift-card bearers also trooped to the Wilton Mall and the plazas nearby, forming long lines at the return counter in Wal-Mart and in Target, for example.

"Last year, people were cautious about spending money," said Worth of Spoken. "This year, I think people bought more freely."