I braved the cold rainy weather to head out to a couple of the local stores this afternoon to observe the Black Friday activities and to pick up a few things. I headed to the newest shopping center in the city which just happens to be around the corner from my house. The "mall" has a Target as the flagship and also sports a Lowes (home center), Best Buy, Staples, PetSmart and a Moores craft and art supply store. This shopping center opened a little more than two years ago, just months before the economy tanked. Needless to say, it has been a pretty sad place most times.
Fortunately, things looked pretty good today. The parking lots were about half-full; the most I've ever seen in the place. Target and Best Buy seemed to be doing the most business. Staples had the least number of customers, but still not bad...usually I am the only one in the place and all of the sales people descend on me like sea gulls on fresh catch when I walk in the place.
But what struck me the most as I darted from car to store to car, in the driving November rain, was that the stores looked essentially the way they had a week ago, or a month ago. Except for Target, which had some snowflakes pasted on their windows and a few hanging from the ceiling throughout the store, nearly all of the stores were devoid of any Christmas decorations.
I started to think about Christmas shopping in Brooklyn in my youth. Many neighborhood shopping areas would not only decorate the store windows, and throughout the store, they would decorate the street with decorations hanging from the street lights or, in a few instances, with special strings of lights that would be hung across the streets from tall temporary wooden posts, all affixed to guide wires anchored to hooks in the sides of the buildings. For the 4-5 weeks before Christmas, it was like carne-vale.
Then there were the large department stores with their amazing window decorations and lifelike displays. People would come downtown just to see the window displays. If you have seen the movie A Christmas Story - and who hasn't - you'll remember the opening scene in the movie when the family goes downtown to see the parade and window displays. Brooklyn in the 1950s and 60s was just like that.
But Augusta, Maine of the 2000s is far from it. Just a couple of lousy snowflakes.
Not sure how well Black Friday was monetarily, but the stores were apparently saving money on decorations this year.