Christina Cheddar Berk is assistant managing editor of Enterprise coverage at CNBC Digital. Before joining CNBC, she was a special writer at Dow Jones Newswires and a guest columnist for the Wall Street Journal. Cheddar Berk was part of a team of reporters who received a Society of American Business Editors and Writers award for breaking news coverage. She also has worked as an associate editor for "The World Almanac" and an assistant editor for "Funk & Wagnalls New Encyclopedia."
Customers turned out to the stores and malls this Black Friday, but the analysis so far indicates that there were fewer of them than last year. And those shoppers who did show up were far more selective, looking for the best bargains, in this competitive holiday season.
Sure, there are plenty of reasons to expect crowds at the stores this Black Friday - tradition, a more condensed holiday shopping season and a cost-conscious consumer - but there are also some subtle signs that retailers aren't too sure about the turnout.
Planning a turkey dinner with all the fixings? Plan to spend a bit more than you did last year. It should cost an average of about 6 percent more to put a traditional Thanksgiving Day dinner on the table, according to a survey from the American Farm Bureau.
If you're in the camp that thinks giving a gift card at the holidays is a bit of a cop-out, retailers have upped the ante this holiday season by rolling out some that put the "gift" in gift card.
Throw out the old rule book. This year, the stakes are different for retailers, says Global Hunter Securities Consumer Strategist Richard Hastings. He predicts retail sales will contract between 6 percent and 8 percent, sending shockwaves throughout the global economy.
In the wake of dismal sales from retailers, the International Council of Shopping Centers cut its forecast for the holiday season, which it issued only two weeks ago.