Blame it on the recession. Or the slushy roads. Whatever the reason, post-Christmas crowds at Seattle-area malls Friday seemed to pale in comparison with previous years.

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Blame it on the recession. Or the slushy roads.

Whatever the reason, post-Christmas crowds at Seattle-area malls Friday seemed to pale in comparison with previous years.

Storefront signs promising big bargains drew mixed reviews from shoppers already accustomed to half-off sales, and many said they merely were exchanging items or redeeming gift cards.

“Here’s 60 and an additional 10,” said Jenny Goebel, from Des Moines, referring to the percentage markdowns on Christmas-themed tableware at Macy’s in downtown Seattle.

“We like the 50 and additional 50,” joked Goebel, who was shopping with her sister-in-law Andrea Marchel.

The 2008 holiday shopping season is expected to turn up the weakest sale results in decades as consumers worry about everything from rising joblessness to declining stock portfolios, and retailers now must try to make room for new, spring merchandise.

At Bellevue Square, shoppers who arrived midmorning Friday had their choice of prime parking spaces. Inside, shoppers jammed the Apple store as well as Nordstrom, which started its half-yearly men’s sale.

Otherwise, signs offering up to 60 percent off attracted mostly lookers and people seeking exercise after being couped up at home for the past few days.

Britt Beemer, a consumer analyst with America’s Research Group in Orlando, Fla., said he thinks retailers have done about all the price-slashing they can do without “just giving away the farm.”

“The problem is,” he said, “more than 30 percent of consumers are worried about their jobs. When people are worried about their jobs, they move into a survival mindset, meaning they just stop spending.”

David Koch, a theater director strolling through Pacific Place in downtown Seattle with his wife, Susan, and their 5-year-old daughter, Quincy, said he checked out Nordstrom’s sale but stopped short of buying anything, concluding “maybe I really don’t need another shirt.”

“Theaters are cutting back on the number of productions they do, and we’re watching our retirement funds diminish,” Koch said, explaining his personal financial outlook.

“I don’t think we’re in a panic mode yet,” he added, “but we’re looking around saying, ‘Will it get worse? Should we start saving aluminum foil like my parents did during the Depression?’ “

Parking-lot slush a foot deep greeted shoppers at Alderwood mall, where one Honda Accord struggled to overcome cobblestonelike ice and SUVs spun for traction as they carved out parking spots.

“You’d think the mall would have at least sanded the streets nearby or plowed the parking lot for safety,” said Heather Rebelos, of Lynnwood, leaving Nordstrom with a few bags — mainly exchanges.

She came ready to shop but was disappointed by what she regarded as a lack of deep discounts.

“Honestly, there haven’t been any adjustments from a couple weeks ago.”

The mall bustled inside, though as one shopper put it, store employees still had enough time on their hands to help her at each stop. Some stood at doors almost beckoning shoppers to come their way.

Where the lines were Friday morning: Starbucks, half-off calendar kiosks, the Macy’s women’s shoe department, Victoria’s Secret, and all over J.C. Penney, which barely had anything not on sale.

Tara Stormo and her daughter, Britta, saved most of their clothes shopping until after Christmas. They left Alderwood mall with sweaters and a trendy watch on sale and hoped to find steals on holiday décor.

“I don’t think I purchased anything full price this season,” Tara Stormo said, “except BlackBerry Storm phones.”

Shelly Hooper, of Monroe, braved the roads to Alderwood first thing in the morning with niece Heather Recor and Heather’s friend, Sarah Archie, both 17.

They normally don’t shop the day after Christmas, but said they appreciated how calm the mall was when they arrived — more time to snag discounted tees and sweat shirts at Aeropostale and stock up on pretty underthings at Victoria’s Secret.

Judy Brown, who drove from Mill Creek to Pacific Place with her daughters, Megan, 21, and Emily, 19, said she arrived early, thinking the mall would be busy.

Instead, she found a parking space quickly and described the mall as anything but busy. Mostly, they were there to redeem gift cards and exchange a few clothing items for different sizes and colors.

“I got a $130 purse for $40 at J. Crew and some really cute jeans originally for $60 at Express for $40,” Megan said. “That’s pretty good.”

At Factoria Mall, about a dozen shoppers swarmed the audio and video section of Target. But Mark Cebull, of Newcastle, lamented that the store had run out of iPod nanos, which he was going to buy for his parents. He and his wife took heart that the mall’s KidsQuest Children’s Museum was open for their daughter to explore.

Miyuki Chillemi, of Kirkland, visited Target for discounts on Christmas items, figuring she still can give some as gifts to people she has not seen lately because of the weather.

“We were going to have a party,” Chillemi said, “but nobody showed up because of the snow.”

Heather and Alex Avena, of Issaquah, bundled up their 2-year-old twin girls for a trip to Old Navy. They returned some gifts and browsed the store’s 60-percent-off sale on apparel.

“You don’t feel pressure” shopping after Christmas, Heather Avena said. “It’s more looking for us than trying to get the right present.”

Haley Pittman, a student at Newport High School in Bellevue, dropped by Old Navy in the afternoon to use a gift card while the sale was still on. “I found some long-sleeved shirts, which is what I was looking for,” she said.

Seattle Times business editor Becky Bisbee contributed to this story.

Amy Martinez: 206-464-2923 or