Last year, just before Thanksgiving, I wrote about the origins of "Black Friday" -- the legendary "busiest" shopping day of the year (which is not true; that happens on the Saturday before Christmas) on which retailers account books shift from red to black (another dubious claim).
This year, hopes for Black Friday are muted. Many retailers are afraid the current economic situation has made consumers wary of making large purchases, today or any other day between now and Christmas. A recent survey, reported by Reuters, suggests that the number of shoppers will be lower this year than last year during the days immediately following Thanksgiving:
Up to 128 million shoppers and would-be shoppers could be expected this holiday weekend, but the numbers represent a drop of more than 5 percent from a year ago, according to a survey released Tuesday.
Some 49 million U.S. shoppers already plan to hit stores this coming holiday weekend, prompted by pent-up demand and lured by deep discounts, according to the BIGresearch study for the National Retail Federation (NRF).
An additional 79 million would-be shoppers are playing wait-and-see, planning to suss out the weekend promotions before deciding whether to shop, the survey found.
Retailers are pulling out all the stops to attract shoppers under the circumstances of the economic slowdown. For instance, Simon Malls (which include Charlottesville's Fashion Square Mall) will be opening their doors extra early this year:
But the 128 million people represent a drop of more than 5 percent from the 135 million people who said they would, or might shop a year ago during the Black Friday weekend, the kick-off to the holiday shopping season.
Early-bird shopping on the Friday after Thanksgiving is an annual tradition for holiday bargain hunters across the country. This year Simon Property Group, Inc. ... is opening its malls extra early to help consumers get an even faster jump on their holiday gift lists.Even on-line retailers are getting into the act, getting a jump on "Cyber Monday" (the first workday following Black Friday, when cubicle-dwellers surf the shopping sites instead of doing the work that's expected of them).
Most Simon malls will open their doors at 5:00 a.m. on Friday, November 28, the traditional start to the holiday shopping season, where consumers will be met with more retailer offers and savings and customer amenities, all under one roof.
For instance, Amazon.com has a promotion called "Amazon Customers Vote," described like this:
Welcome to Amazon Customers Vote 2008, your chance to compete for our most ridiculous deals of the season. The products that get the most votes in each of six rounds will be offered at ridiculous deal prices, and the runners-up will also be offered at slightly smaller discounts. (But they'll still be sweet deals.)
* Step 1: Vote.
Browse our six rounds of great products, and vote for the ones you'd like to buy at an amazing discount.
* Step 2: Check E-mail.
Check your e-mail the day before each buying round to see if you've been randomly selected to participate in the race to buy.
* Step 3: Go!
If selected, make sure you come back and log-in early on race day. We will have many more participants than deals, so the race is on. Good luck!
Amazon has also set up a special page full of "Black Friday 2008 Deals," leading off with electronics, followed by gifts for sporty and outdoorsy types, winter apparel, home improvement bargains, and books and DVDS, among other items.
TLA Video, a specialty web site, also offers a number of quirky gift ideas for Christmas and the holiday season. (I highlighted some of those products last year, but a few of the more entertaining links are dead now.)
Those who have not yet bought, addressed, and sent out their holiday greeting cards might be interested in these choices:
Celebrate Boxed Holiday Cards
The tantalizing angel on the cover of this card gives great reason to celebrate. Each of the ten cards contained in this set feature the photo shown. Here's the copy inside and outside the card: Outside: Celebrate Inside: A healthy & happy holiday season.
Christmas Homo Boxed Holiday Cards
It's simple, but it hit us right on the funny bone. Your friends are likely to get a big kick, as well. Each of the ten cards contained in the set feature this photo of a man shouting. Here's the copy inside and outside the card: Outside: Merry Christmas! Inside: Homo!
Herald Angels Sing Boxed Holiday Cards
Now that is what I call an angel! Adorable! Each of the ten cards contained in this holiday set feature the captivating photo pictured. Here's the copy inside and outside the card: Outside: Hark! The herald angels sing Inside: Wishing you a peaceful Christmas and a joyous New Year
Santa Quits Boxed Holiday Cards
Only one thing can be inferred from this card...Santa must be a homophobe. It's a shame, because he might fit nicely in the older bear community. Send this card to your friends and give them a holiday chuckle. Each of the ten cards in this set features the photo shown. Here's the copy inside and outside the card: Outside: A Barbie for Ben and a tool belt for Jane! Inside: I quit!
Wishing Joy & Love Boxed Holiday Cards
Awww. This card carries a sweet sentiment to share with your friends and neighbors this holiday season. Each of the ten cards in this gorgeous set feature the scrumptious angel pictured. Here's the copy inside and outside the card: Outside: Joy to the World Inside: Wishing joy and love to you and yours this holiday season
For those more interested in playing cards than greeting cards, TLA Video has these provocative game decks available:
Truth or Dare Poker Card Game
Add some naughty, taboo fun to your favorite card games. The Truth or Dare Poker Card Game contains the standard 52 cards found in any deck along with probing truth questions and hilarious dares on each card. Win a game and you get to assign truths or dares to the other players of your choice. The better your poker hand, the more people you get to challenge. Truth example: What are you most ashamed to admit you own? Dare example: Perform a puppet show with dirty sweat socks.
Playgirl Playing Cards
This official poker deck features 52 different hot, buff men from Playgirl for your own personal playing enjoyment. Just don't let these studs distract you from your poker strategy and try not to drool all over the cards either...other players have to use them too.
No doubt there is someone on your gift list who likes soft skin and pleasant aromas, and there is plenty to choose from on that score:
Pear Trio Box
TLA is proud to offer this gorgeous, eye-catching gift set containing a trio of intoxicating pear-scented bath and body products from duross & langel. Fairly dripping with sweet and yummy yellow pear set within a white shea butter soap base and blended with pear nectar. Included in this set are shower gel, body cream, and soap.
Peppermint Trio Box
TLA is proud to offer this gorgeous, eye-catching gift set containing a trio of intoxicating peppermint-scented bath and body products from duross & langel. Soothe your senses and calm your soul with a unique and invigorating blend of peppermint oils. This set also includes soap, shower gel, and body cream.
Nothing makes a better stocking-stuffer than a classic Christmas DVD. It comes as no surprise that TLA Video offers a large selection. Just a few to start with:
Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July
You would have to search far and wide to find anyone who disagrees with the view that this is simply one of the worst animated Christmas movies ever made, and therefore it must be seen to be believed. TLA Video's synopsis barely skims the surface:
"Long, long ago, the North Pole was ruled by the good fairy Lady Boreal and her enemy was the wicked wizard Winterbolt. To protect Santa Claus from Winterbolt's foggy fury, Lady Boreal grants Rudolph the Reindeer a magical, glowing nose. Years later, Rudolph and his friend Frosty the Snowman are called on to save a needy circus at a special 4th of July benefit. But their big-top act turns to big-time trouble when Winterbolt appears - with a plan to steal Frosty's magic hat and extinguish Rudolph's legendary nose!"
The cast includes Ethel Merman, Mickey Rooney, Red Buttons, and Shelley Winters. Yes, really.
The Judy Garland Christmas Show
If you prefer something with lasting quality rather than something that requires an airsickness bag while watching, then this Judy Garland Christmas special is for you. As long as you can overlook Judy's barely hidden state of intoxication, you will be delighted by this episode of her early-60s TV series. Judy is joined by daughter Liza Minnelli and friend Jack Jones and Mel Torme.
A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All!
Now, if 45-year-old classics are not your preference, then you can't miss with tomorrow's nostalgia: Stephen Colbert premiered his Christmas special just a few days ago, and the DVD is already available for purchase. (How long did we have to wait for Rudolph and Frosty?) Includes unforgettable musical sequences in which Stephen sings with Toby Keith, Willie Nelson, Feist, Elvis Costello, John Legend, and Jon Stewart.
With 2009 just around the corner, it's time to buy a calendar for the new year. There are so many to choose from, so here's a sampling:
Wizard of Oz 2009 Calendar
Seventy years after its premiere in theaters, The Wizard of Oz™ remains one of the most beloved movie classics of all time. This calendar celebrates the seventieth anniversary of Dorothy's journey Over the Rainbow. It features a high-process cover with glittery Ruby Slippers, foil type and borders, and spot UV accents. The monthly spreads also boast spot UV as well metallic inks and vivid photos befitting the time-honored film.
Ugly Betty 2009 Calendar
Ugly Betty boasts nearly 15 million viewers per episode and has won countless awards. The show also earned eleven Emmy nominations, the most for any comedy series on any network. This calendar brings together the unique humor, original style, and edgy look of this hit show by featuring photographs of the all-star cast accompanied by images and dialogue from the show.
Desperate Housewives 2009 Calendar
Says TLA Video: "Consistently garnering nearly 19 million viewers per episode, Desperate Housewives is one of our favorite guilty pleasures (especially now that the hunky gay neighbors have moved in)! The women of Wisteria Lane are back for another smokin' hot year of gorgeous photos and bitchy dialogue."
And, for those who saw Heidi Klum on Jay Leno's show on Thanksgiving Eve ... while I could not track down the "Hollywood Fireman" calendar that the supermodel displayed, I was able to find the Sunset Strip Firemen 2009 Calendar, which should be a satisfactory substitute.
Finally, I should note that TLA Video is having a marathon sale this weekend, beginning on Thanksgiving Day and ending at 11:59 p.m. on December 2. Look for "Gift Ideas for Film Snobs" and "Perfect Gifts," among other categories.
If you haven't crossed off every name from your Xmas shopping list by now, you're just not trying!