Deep discounts and unwanted gifts drew shoppers to Long Island malls on Saturday, just hours after many of them wrapped up Christmas festivities with their families.

Cathy Tully, 67, of West Babylon, arrived at Macy’s in Bay Shore’s Westfield South Shore mall at 7 a.m. to spend some of the $500 in gift cards she received from relatives on Christmas.

“I usually buy for my grandchildren, so my family was telling me to please go and buy something for myself,” said Tully. She said she paid $39 for an eight-piece comforter set that retailed for $260.

Marshal Cohen, a retail analyst with the NPD Group, a Port Washington-based market research company, said the increased popularity of gift cards means people who in the past may have gone shopping on Dec. 26 to return unwanted presents are instead redeeming cards to buy more items.

Even so, he said, the number of returns has been roughly stable in recent years, buoyed by what he dubs “bad gifting” by shoppers who focused on grabbing sale merchandise that not long ago would not have been discounted.

“The consumer ends up in some cases with products that may not be well thought out,” Cohen said.

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In the past, shoppers had to wait until after Christmas to find deep discounts, Cohen said. That changed in 2008, when the country was mired in recession and desperate retailers began slashing prices earlier, he said. Those discounts have continued even as the economy has improved, but it still pays to wait until Dec. 26 and later, he said.

“The best deals are still going to be found after Christmas,” Cohen said. “The caveat is you’re buying the runt of the litter. You’re getting the leftovers.”

Stefani Lewis, 41, a secretary, and her husband, Jason Lewis, 42, a meat store manager, went to Bath & Body Works in South Shore mall to return items.

“I got a lotion as a present, and I’m not into lotions,” Stefani Lewis said. “I’ll probably get a body wash.”

The couple had more stops on their list, including Kohl’s, Bed, Bath & Beyond and Costco, to return other gifts that just weren’t right.

“I bought my son a little tabletop drum set and when he opened it, it was broken. He was so disappointed,” Stefani Lewis said. “But I was able to take it back, get cash back and buy it again. So with all the Christmas sales, I even saved $4 on buying it back.”

Sheron Parnell, 44, a speech and language therapist from North Babylon, said she paid $126 at Lord & Taylor in South Shore for a Calvin Klein winter coat that had been originally been priced at $340. It was a gift to herself, she said.

“This is the day to come,” Parnell said. “It’s much better than Black Friday. The sales are much better and the crowds are much less.”

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She also uses post-Christmas sales to pick up holiday gifts for next year.

“I get them at a good price and store them in a plastic bin until the next Christmas rolls around,” Parnell said. “You don’t get better prices the rest of the year like you do today.”

Camille Mohabir, 47, a home-health aide, drove from Jamaica, Queens, to The Gallery at Westbury Plaza in Garden City to buy 50-percent-off holiday gift wrap, bows and ribbons at The Container Store.

“Every year I always have to go out and buy things that I need for Christmas at full price, so I thought I’d get ahead of it for next year,” she said.

Shoppers had to wait until Dec. 26 to take advantage of post-holiday sales or return unwanted holiday presents. But same-day Christmas returns may be on the way, said Jeff Berry, senior director, research and development, at LoyaltyOne, a Toronto-based firm that specializes in customer analytics and loyalty-program services.

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Now that retailers have crossed the line of opening on Thanksgiving, some are likely to do so on Christmas within the next three years, he said in an email.

In a November survey, LoyaltyOne found that if stores opened at 6 p.m. on Christmas, 18 percent of U.S. consumers surveyed would shop that night, while 24 percent said they would be less likely to patronize those stores in the future.