When the Going Gets Tough, The Tough Go Shopping

OK, I know you’ve probably heard that corny old line before, but for the breaking news desk, it certainly works today.

Trust me when I tell you that the week between Christmas and New Year’s is slow. Painfully slow. Oh sure, there might be breaking news, but here in the business world, with many on vacation, we’re essentially waiting for January.

Except, of course, at the mall. The day after Christmas, from now until the end of time, I can guarantee there WILL be a CNBC reporter at the mall. It’s as inevitable as the George Washington Bridge hypothermia standup by some poor reporter during the season’s first snowstorm. (If you don’t live in the New York area, fill in the name of YOUR favorite snow-choked roadway). You'll see it as sure as you'll see that "How To Fry A Turkey" story the day before Thanksgiving. But why not? It's the perfect story for us. How much people shop, how much they spend and how many gifts they return is a thorough reflection of the state of the economy, retailers and related industries.

CNBC’s Margaret Brennan, who covers retail, was the natural choice to be sent off to a mall in King of Prussia, Pa., where she spent many, many hours doing reports both for CNBC and sister cable network MSNBC. (I have a friend who spent the morning on a local radio station doing both sports and traffic under two different names, but that’s another story entirely).

Oh, and you know those people who stand behind the camera, jump up and down, and wave, just so they can be on TV? Don't be them.

Ford-ota?: A report from Japan’s Nikkei News crossed our desk saying that Ford CEO Alan Mulally met with Toyota executives last week about potential partnerships. When we see something like this, we need to get it on, even if we don’t immediately know what it might mean. Bianna Golodryga reported this shortly after it crossed during her “Power Lunch” headline segment at 1 p.m. ET. It could mean a partnership, but, of course, we were all thinking … hmm ... is Mr. Mulally feeling out Toyota about a merger? As the saying goes, only time will tell. Our autos reporter, Phil Lebeau, thinks a technology-sharing strategic alliance is the most likely subject of the conversation.

As noted above, interesting and breaking stories are few and far between on days like this, so when this one crossed, our afternoon executive producer Ed Kosowski came to the desk looking quite like my four cats do just before dinnertime. Fear not, Ed - we’ve got you covered!