December 21, 2002

RETAIL SUPPORT BRIGADE SITREP: Reader (and merchant) Woody Emanuel emails:

I am in retail (classic clothing) and the Saturday before Christmas is traditionally THE busiest shopping day before Christmas. Having just closed for the day, I can report that it was perhaps the slowest Saturday before Xmas I have seen in well over a decade or more.

Well, I was just at the grocery store (bought paper towels; didn't need Saran wrap) and the parking lot at the big mall across the street was pretty full -- but definitely not as full as last year. Woody reports that his business has been slow since November; we'll see if that reflects the national situation or not soon enough.

UPDATE: SKBUBBA emails that I was there too early today:

We went to West Town today around 11:00 AM. Found easy parking, stores not too crowded. By the time we left around 6:30 it was totally jammed.

You literally couldn't even walk around in Williams Sonoma. Abercrombie and Fitch had lines four and five deep at every register.

Department stores weren't quite as crowded, but seemed to be doing brisk business and didn't seem to have enough people to handle it. They were discounting just about everything.

They were also sold out of a lot of popular stuff. (My favorite Polo shirts were in short supply, and there is not one Calphalon Commercial Non-Stick 10" omelet skillet in Knoxville except as part of a set. There may be one at Proffitts in Maryville because I returned it yesterday when I saw one $20 cheaper at Bed Bath and Beyond, but by the time I got back there today they were sold out. Moral of the story: bird in hand, etc.).

By the time we left the mall around 6:30 it took us 20 minutes just to get out of the parking lot and more were coming in.

Even Ruby Tuesday was SRO around 3:30 when we took a break. West Town Mall shopping tip: Ruby Tuesday has happy hour all day. Two people can get an appetizer and hammered for about $20 plus tip. After four hours of power shopping it is a welcome respite and good for getting your second wind.

So anyway, I think maybe you left before the masses arrived. It was chaotic by 4:00 or 5:00 PM.

Well, as someone whose salary is paid largely by the sales tax, I hope SKBubba's right. He's certainly right about Ruby's -- I had lunch there the other day and noted that, Gawker notwithstanding, "drunk shopping" seems to be more than just a New York thing.