It is Black Friday and that means seeing the worst in people. The annual shopping frenzy is marked by deals that some shoppers wait days to take advantage of and the media usually covers the carnage, chaos and outright violence that breaks out as a result. But this year we’re seeing Black Friday violence and chaos widespread through-out the world.
Here was the scene at a Walmart in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico:
The BBC is reporting on chaos associated with Black Friday in Belfast.
While the frenzy of Black Friday appears to be spreading the USA still dominates these stories. Here are some of the typical stories we’re seeing from across the USA:
The Zombie Apocalypse of Black Friday:
The Richards family of Canberra in Australia once held the record for the most lights on a home — a world record of more than 331,000 lights.
That record fell last year to a family located in LaGrangeville, New York, who put up more than 346,000 lights.
The Richard’s knew they could do better. Much better. After all, light hanging season is summer in Australia and they were motivated by charity — SIDS & Kids ACT — supported by their Christmas lighting efforts. This year they shattered the record by putting up more than 502,000 lights.
“The charity is very close to our heart. We lost a child and SIDS looked after us many years ago,” he said.
Setting up the lights takes enormous effort and time but Mr Richards had a lot of help this time from family and friends, and when the power comes on and the tent-like streams of lights under a massive tree are revealed it is spectacular.
“I have always loved Christmas. Having the Christmas lights with the community coming in and sharing it is a time when you get to know people you probably should know better, I guess.”
But SIDS and Kids is the main reason he does the time-consuming task, to raise money for the work they do.
“It was very important for us,” he said.
“Anyone who has been through that sort of loss will probably tell you the worst thing that can happen to you is losing a young child.”
In years past they raised nearly $80,000 for the charity. This year they are hoping to top $100,000.
Kids in Thailand, of all places, gathered by the hundreds in red and green for one reason — to break the record in forming the world’s largest human Christmas tree. They did it, too, all 852 of them.
Christmas is not an official holiday in Thailand but they have malls and where there is shopping there is Christmas. They beat the old record of 672 kids set by kids in Germany in 2011.
To the relief of parents, and the chagrin of a few teenagers, the children were not hoisted onto a human pyramid shaped like a conifer.
It was more an exercise in crowd control, grouping the assembled 6- to 15-year-olds into a tree-like formation on the ground.
“I kind of thought we’d get to stand on each other’s shoulders,” said 13-year-old Nattakit Liewkulnattana. Like most participants at the event, he doesn’t celebrate Christmas. He wasn’t sure whose birthday the holiday marks (“Santa Claus?”) but was excited to take part in a world record, and maybe get something in return.
“I want presents!” the teen said. All participants got to keep their hoodies.
The record was set in 15 minutes, 29 seconds.
Guinness representative Fortuna Burke certified the feat, counting on a clicker as children filed onto an outdoor verandah at Siam Paragon mall, the event’s organizer. Once in place, the children waved as a drone flew overhead to capture aerial images.
Christmas bonuses for everyone — if you live in Bolivia.
President Evo Morales decreed Wednesday that an extra month’s wages should be paid as a special Christmas bonus to all salaried workers in Bolivia, at state agencies, in the military and police and in the private sector.
Bolivian law already requires that salaried workers get a month’s pay as a December bonus, so they will now get triple their pay for that month.
The leftist president said he made the surprise announcement because his government’s goal is to reduce poverty and more equally distribute the wealth in one of South America’s poorest nations.
“The economy is good and the country’s growth should return to the workers with a double Christmas bonus,” Morales said during a meeting with union leaders.
Bolivia is among countries that oblige all employers to pay workers an extra monthly wage in December. The new decree means Bolivia’s salaried workers will get a third monthly wage for the month.
Those affected include some 300,000 state employees, who have doubled in number since Morales took office. Their median salary is a little more than $500 a month.
Bolivia’s government is the single biggest employer in the country of 10 million people. Most Bolivians work in the informal economy and Morales has sought to extend a social safety net to them.
The bonus will be paid every year as long as Bolivia’s gross domestic product grows by at least 4.5 percent annually, the decree states.
The government says GDP is expected to grow about 6.7 percent this year, thanks to record exports that are forecast to total $12 billion, half from natural gas sales and most of the rest from mining.
With about a week to go until Americans from coast-to-coast universally eat turkey the Butterball people have a little announcement to make: there is a shortage of turkeys.
Well, just large turkeys. And just the fresh variety. There are plenty of big frozen birds. Guess they picked the big ones out first.
The company told retailers that their orders for fresh turkeys 16 pounds (7.3 kg) and bigger have been cut by 50%, according to a press release from Big Y, a grocery chain in Massachusetts and Connecticut. Butterball, which produces around 20% of the US’s turkeys and 1.3 billion pounds of turkey meat a year, has confirmed in a emailed statement that “there may be limited availability on some larger sizes of fresh turkeys” and that the shortage is nationwide.
This is a big worry because 16 pounds is the average weight of turkeys eaten at Thanksgiving, which 88% of US households celebrate, according to EatTurkey.com, an industry site. According to Butterball’s handy calculator, a 16-pound turkey would feed a dinner party of six adults and six children.
Mind you, that doesn’t mean there’ll be no big turkeys to be had. It’s only fresh turkeys from Butterball that are affected; the company sells frozen ones too, and there are several other manufacturers who will be only too delighted to fill the gap. But what might be more reason for panic than a turkey shortage is what’s causing it.
“We experienced a decline in weight gains on some of our farms causing a limited availability of large, fresh turkeys,” said Butterball’s statement. Translation: Its turkeys aren’t growing as fast as they used to.
This is odd because the industry has cranked out steadily heavier turkeys with each passing year. In 2011, the average turkey weighed some 57% more than in 1965, according to the US Department of Agriculture. And though it’s the most popular size, a 16-pound turkey isn’t even that big. The birds raised for processing average 28 pounds.
Odder still, though, is that Butterball, the US’s turkey-farming powerhouse, isn’t sure why its birds stay svelter than usual—or isn’t yet saying. “While we are continuing to evaluate all potential causes, we are working to remedy the issue,” says the company.
Two stories dominate the world of Christmas retailing today: A Gallup poll confirms an earlier survey that Americans are going to spend less this Christmas. And retailers are warning that 3rd quarter results point to near disaster for their holiday projections:
While it [Walmart] posted a profit in its third-quarter earnings report and beat analysts’ expectations, the company trimmed its forecast — citing persistent unemployment within its customer base, jitters over the government’s health care plans and tight budgets all around.
“Their income is going down while food costs are not,” William S. Simon, chief executive of Walmart, said of the company’s customer base. “Gas and energy prices, while they’re abating, I think they’re still eating up a big piece of the customer’s budget.”
The elephant in the room is Obamacare. With millions just hit with cancellation notices and politicians back-pedaling on promises that this wouldn’t happen consumers are nervous already about 2014. Even though President Obama said today he would extend existing health plans another year the damage has already been done and retailers know it.
All of that coupled with a shortened selling season thanks to a later date for Thanksgiving means that retailers have nowhere to go but uphill this holiday season.
What does that mean for consumers?
It is difficult to predict. Because the retail calendar was known so far in advance and because the dam really broke loose on Thanksgiving Day sales last year — effectively killing the traditional Black Friday — retailers have had a long time to figure out how to make margins under difficult conditions. What they didn’t count on was the unpredictability that a non-election year cycle of political turmoil could cause for them.
Will consumers grab the deals — or hoard the cash?
So far, it appears they are hoarding the cash.
A better indication of the impact of Obamacare and other factors in the U.S. influencing Christmas sales could be found in forecasts in International markets. In the Uk and in Australia, hopes are flying high for a strong selling season. In Japan, not so much.