Thanksgiving may be billed as the biggest day of the year for Americans. But it turns out that the turkey eating fest is actually a sideshow to November's main event: Black Friday. That's the day the holiday shopping season kicks off. (Apart from in Chicago, where it begins the day after the Christmas parade along the Magnificent Mile, pictured above.)
Unlike in the UK, retailers here don't pretend they intend to wait until after Christmas to slash their prices. Maybe it's because there is no Boxing Day in the US and hence no Boxing Day sales, or maybe it's because America just likes to do things differently. Either way, shoppers are sharpening their elbows for what are expected to be record bargains given the collapse in retail sales. Some stores are offering up to 75 per cent off.
But even that might not be enough for some families. With finances so tight this year, something has to give when it comes to Christmas shopping. Recent sales figures suggest that something is the time honoured festive tradition of Moms doing a little cheeky shopping on the side for themselves while playing Santa. Women's clothing sales nosedived last month, forcing retailers from Barneys to Benetton into some savage discounting. A New York Times piece this week said Moms were holding back and digging clothes out from the back of their wardrobes just so they could afford their children's wishlists.
Nobody tell Louis! As it happens, just before reading that story, I'd decided that my need for a new pair of jeans that actually fit should take precedence over his Christmas presents. After all, surely a kid has to be able to write before he can tell Father Christmas what he'd like? I could have taken back the jeans (and the cardigan) I bought but frankly Louis's needs have already topped mine for the last 18 months and I figured it was time to fight back. A little. While I still can. As for DC's Black Friday, we'll be testing out the Georgetown sales tomorrow with Charlie, who jets in tonight for a couple of days. You never know, if Louis's very lucky maybe she'll buy him a Christmas present.