By Jim Mackinnon
and Cheryl Powell
Beacon Journal business writers
Brian Seidel acted quickly to put some of his Christmas gifts to good use.
The 12-year-old Cuyahoga Falls resident late Thursday morning accompanied his parents to the GameStop store off Howe Avenue in Akron. And there he proceeded to spend some of the Christmas cash and gift cards he received.
“I wanted to get a new [microphone] and game,” Brian said. He left the store with a new microphone headset and a copy of Resident Evil 5 for the PlayStation 3. The microphone lets him associate with friends from school as they play games online together, he said.
The Seidels were among a small army of shoppers descending upon retailers the day after Christmas. On shoppers’ agendas: Returning gifts, exchanging gifts and buying items for themselves.
Gift cards continue to grow in popularity, according to the National Retail Foundation. The association expects that shoppers this year will spend an average of $163.16 on gift cards, up 4 percent from $156.86 in 2012, for a total of $29.8 billion. The average purchase price for a holiday card: $45.16, up from $43.75 in 2012.
Companies such as GameStop are benefiting from that sort of spending. GameStop, headquartered in Texas, expects fourth-quarter sales of its more than 6,000 stores open at least a year to increase 2 to 9 percent.
Sales in the $21 billion video game industry are expected to get big boosts by the recent introduction of the Microsoft Xbox One and Sony PlayStation 4 consoles, in addition to continued interest in other consoles.
Eager shoppers couldn’t wait to redeem their Christmas gift cards for new video games at the GameStop store on Kent Road in Stow.
About 10 people — including a few who camped out in the warmth of their cars — were on hand when the store opened its doors at 9 Thursday morning.
“We had a big rush right when we opened up,” sales associate Josh Selesky said. “There’s been people coming in spending their gift cards.”
Vera Campbell, 32, of Kent was among the customers lined up on Thursday morning to redeem a gift card she received for Christmas.
“A friend got it for me, so I said, ‘I’ll use it,’ ” she said.
Campbell redeemed her gift card to purchase a pre-owned copy of the game Dead Island for her PlayStation 3 system for less than $20.
Though the hot new PlayStation 4 was sold out on Thursday, gamers still were happy to buy other systems, Selesky said. Most post-Christmas shoppers purchased new and used games for the PS4 and the older but still popular systems.
Nine-year-old Austin Prince of Akron spent Christmas cash and a gift card on the Mario Kart 7 game and a memory card for his Nintendo 3DS hand-held game console at the Howe Avenue GameStop.
“My cousin has a DS and plays it and I think it’s really cool,” Austin said.
Austin’s father, Al, said he is amazed by the state of game technology.
“It blows your mind,” he said. “I’m 51. Pong was the game back when I was his age.”
Some 68 percent of all gamers are 18 or older, according to the Entertainment Software Association. The average age is 30 — with 35 being the average age of the most frequent game purchaser. And of all gamers, almost half are female.
The Seidels in Cuyahoga Falls are largely a gamer family. Each of her two sons and her husband, John, have their own flat-screen TVs to play games on, said Nicki Seidel.
“We have three of everything,” she said.
But she doesn’t count herself as a gamer. Instead, she prefers jewelry. “That’s what I care about,” she said.