Black Friday shoppers (file)
Black Friday shoppers (file)

The Friday after the American holiday of Thanksgiving is called Black Friday. According to lore it's the day that store ledgers move into the black and companies become profitable.  On that day, retailers slash prices to get consumers to buy.  It is also a time when many Americans start their Christmas shopping. VOA's Elizabeth Lee tells us how the economy may affect consumers on that bargain day.

This day is a shopper's dream. 

"It's just the deals the sales and everything you can get for a lesser price," said Sandy Thomas, a shopper.

But it's a nightmare for others. "I think it's crazy.I've done all of my shopping throughout the week so I don't have to go out on Friday," she said.

It's called Black Friday, the start of the traditional Christmas shopping season in the United States.
Every year it's the day after the Thanksgiving holiday. Stores open before sunrise and there are deep discounts everywhere you look.

While the lead up to Christmas is known as the season of giving, Black Friday can get ugly.

Last year a mob of bargin-hunters trampled and killed a Wal-mart worker in a New York suburb. This year, many stores are increasing security while they slash prices.

"This is a huge time for the retail stores," said Fred Joutz from George Washington University. "This is when they begin making their profits for the year."

Economics professor Fred Joutz says how Americans spend the weekend after Thanksgiving is a good indication of how consumers feel about the future.

With the unemployment rate above 10 percent, Joutz says Americans are saving more and spending less.

"Credit is still constrained whether through credit cards or through borrowing from banks," he said.

Some retailers are luring consumers by opening on Thanksgiving Day, when shops are traditionally closed.  Other stores open their doors anywhere from midnight to four in the morning.
And shoppers will be lining up in front of the doors before that to be one of the first ones to walk through and get a big discount.

Electronics like flat screen TVs are usually the first items to go.

Sandy Thomas says it's an annual family tradition and well worth it. "I just save maybe half of what I would have spent on a regular, you know, shopping trip," she said.

Economists say U.S. consumers will spend money this Black Friday, but they will spend it more carefully.