Off and running

Too soon even for the exit polls, but all signs point to a very strong day-after-Thanksgiving shopping day (aka Black Friday, an industry term that has suddenly entered everyone's lexicon because it's so much shorter and sexier than day-after-Thanksgiving shopping). By now, we all know that shoppers clutching a bunch of bags early in the day is usually a good sign. That's because they're buying more than the deep-discount loss leaders being sold at 5 in the morning. Some economists measure how early mall parking lots fill up, but that can be misleading because it doesn't factor in window shoppers.

The holiday season typically starts with a strong sales spurt and then slows down for the first half of December before picking up again towards Christmas. The pre-holiday surveys shows sales gains of between 5 and 7 percent and if past years are any guide, Socal should in the upper end of that range. Look, we have very low unemployment in L.A., gasoline is cheap (though not quite as cheap as a couple of weeks ago) and most important, real estate is not in a free-fall, which some analysts had been predicting earlier this year. So people are feeling pretty good about things and when people feel good they spend.

Something to remember: retailers have become very adept at not ordering too much merchandise that they’ll have to unload after Christmas. The problem with this strategy is that if something turns out to be more popular than expected, they’re stuck. This is what happened with the Elmos. Keep in mind that much of the merchandise you see in stores was shipped in from Asia and elsewhere around the world. In a worst case scenario, they can always air ship extra orders, but it’s tough – and it’s expensive. So that’s probably an incentive to shop early, which of course is the way the retailers like it.

Here's an early LAT story. Initial sales numbers will probably start trickling in by late afternoon.

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Mark Lacter
Mark Lacter created the LA Biz Observed blog in 2006. He posted until the day before his death on Nov. 13, 2013.
Mark Lacter, business writer and editor was 59
The multi-talented Mark Lacter
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