|The Mall at Peace in the Early Morning|
For the first time I can remember, I actually visited a shopping mall on Black Friday this year.
I didn't make any purchases -- I went to return something I'd bought in error a week earlier. So I wasn't in the crowd outside before the doors were swept open.
Instead I went a half hour before the mall closed. Parking was easy, and I completed my errand quickly. This left me enough time to walk around the mall's upper and lower levels and see what was going on.
There were many people carrying several full shopping bags and also a fair number like me, whose hands were free.
What struck me was how many clothing stores had signs announcing 30 or 40 percent off their entire stock. At the Gap, a sign said everything in the store was 50 percent off.
Maybe this is normal for Black Friday. Normal or not, it certainly is in line with reports that fashion stores are carrying too much inventory and looking to sell merchandise at serious discounts.
-- The National Retail Federation estimates holiday spending will increase by 3.7 percent this year. I don't know if that's good news or bad news. Here's the group's graph showing total holiday sales by year (the blue bars) and year-to-year changes (the orange line).
-- The percentage of holiday shopping done online just keeps growing. Almost 50 percent of the population planned to buy gifts online today, Cyber Monday. (This may be why you found it more difficult to get working people on the phone today.)
-- Self-gifting gets more popular every year. According to Prosper Insight and Analytics, men are expected to spend 50 percent more on themselves than women. Hispanics are more enthusiastic self-gifters than members of other ethnic groups. (I have no idea what any of this means.)
-- Hoverboards. Many, many self-balancing, battery-powered hoverboards.
-- The holiday shopping season is starting earlier every year. This year it began in early November, well before Black Friday.
Bad news for me. Already I am already running late.