The day after Thanksgiving in America, or what is called Black Friday, which falls on Nov. 25 this year, traditionally marks the unofficial start of the holiday shopping season.
What retailers hope will be lusty consumer spending during the winter holidays is fueled, in part, by cozy images of the season. Nathaniel Currier and James Ives’ 19th-century lithographs of snow-crusted fields, frosty farmhouse windows, and families bundled on one-horse sleighs still adorn holiday cards.
Each year on television, viewers fall in love again with the snow-dappled town of Bedford Falls in the beloved 1946 Christmas movie classic, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” And they re-introduce our children to Clement Moore’s classic poem, “A Visit From Saint Nicholas.”
While holiday images are warm and fuzzy, the reality of the shopping crunch is something else entirely. Retailers, nervous about the state of the economy, aren’t waiting for Thanksgiving weekend to put up tinsel and Christmas trees. The decorations are already up in thousands of towns across the country. The National Retail Federation is projecting a modest 2.8-percent gain in shopper spending this holiday season.
Today’s Currier and Ives would have to depict crowded airports and harried shoppers driving from mall to mall. With more than one-third of Americans now ordering holiday gifts on the Internet rather than fighting the crowds, retailers have reason to be nervous.