If you can't find a place to park today as you make your way around town to start your Christmas shopping, think positive.
Merchants from Macy's at Stoneridge Shopping Center to Clover Creek downtown will be ecstatic, glad to see you frantically searching for a parking spot to join the customers standing in line at their cash registers inside. It's what they've been waiting for.
Today is Black Friday--the day after Thanksgiving--and traditionally one of the busiest shopping days of the year for retailers. Many of us no doubt stayed glued to our computers between turkey and pumpkin pie yesterday checking for door-buster deals that actually started right after the pie was served -- at 6 p.m. at Walmart, 8 p.m. at some stores in the Mall and places like Best Buy, and even all day yesterday at K-Mart, wherever it has stores in the region.
There's a reason, of course, that those who sell want us to shop early and often. It's not been a terribly bang-up year in retailing.
An unusually warm and dry fall has caused a drop in winter wear and rain gear, here in the Bay Area at least. The recent government shutdown, concerns over whether there might be another one and uncertainties over the cost of healthcare insurance in the coming months have dampened buyer enthusiasm along with sales. That's why Black Friday is important this year. It's also supposed to mark the time that takes retailers out of the red (losses) and into the black (profits).
In reality, though, Black Friday's shadow extends back to Halloween when we first saw promotions for Christmas shopping sales.
Downtown Pleasanton stores jumped the gun last weekend with three special holiday shopping events that ran from 7 a.m. to late at night with Main Street and side streets filled with shoppers most of the day. Santa was at the Museum on Main, two weeks ahead of the day he traditionally paid a visit to Pleasanton during the city's annual Holiday Parade, which will be Dec. 7. But then Santa's been at Stoneridge all month.
Still, there's always some mystery and even fun in visiting all the stores on Black Friday, if not to grab that $279 flatscreen TV set off the shelf but to watch the crowds sort their way through the merchandise. Even Home Depot added some suspense Wednesday with several aisles of tools covered securely in black tarp that warned: "Hands off until Nov. 29."
If you're one of the few stuck at work today, joining the thousands across the country who were called to work Thanksgiving Day to launch Black Friday, don't despair.
Cyber Monday is just a weekend away, which officially marks the beginning of the Christmas online shopping season. Seeing all the specials already offered at Amazon.com, eBay, Crutchfield.com and others, it's hard to believe there's anything left for a price cut. But check anyway.
Just don't forget that tomorrow is Small Business Saturday in Pleasanton and throughout the U.S. independent retailers' community. The best deals could be right here in our own backyard, where the sales taxes also stay.