On the traditional first day of the Christmas season, shoppers swarmed stores, as always, but the mood was less festive than anxious, reports the New York Times, as consumers flocked to discount chains, and hunted down bargains. Beset by worries about gas prices, adjustable-rate mortgages, and a skittish stock market, many bypassed more expensive retailers. Analysts are already calling this the "trade-down" holiday shopping season.
Early estimates show traffic on a par with last year, the Wall Street Journal reports, and sales up, but the deep discounts will hit profits hard. With the prognosis for holiday sales the worst in five years, retailers responded with aggressive price cuts, and highlighted cheaper merchandise. Even the FAO Schwarz flagship in New York put away extremely high-end toys that weren't selling well, the CEO said, and sales were up.