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participation in this year’s Black Friday looks like it may be the worst in history: according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll of 1,639 adults showed 63%, or nearly two-thirds, did not plan to shop on Black Friday this year. Some 32% said they plan to finish about half of their holiday shopping on that day. While selling tactics are certainly a factor, one wonders how much of decline in spending is due to lack of disposable income for the tapped out US consumer?
“The holiday season is expanding, and Black Friday is no longer the kickoff for the season,” said Natalie Kotlyar, who heads retail and consumer products at business advisory firm BDO Consumer, adding many start holiday shopping at Halloween, Labor Day or even Amazon’s Prime Day on July 12.
Still, retailers are not only not giving up but, as Reuters reports, are on the verge of panic, and have not only redoubled efforts this year to boost sales with familiar tactics but greater intensity, all of which assure even lower margins, but are rolling out the heavy artillery to draw in those consumers who will go out on Friday.
I’ve never understood Black Friday.
Some of it is cultural: I grew up around people who were not shoppers. The women purchased their Christmas items when they were not at work, the men waited until the very last minute, and I don’t recall stores in Puerto Rico doing Black Friday promotions. I’m not certain, but I don’t think stores in Latin America did then, either.
Another reason is that I have been shopping on line for years since, no matter where I live, I always have friends and relatives in other areas. Before the Internet, I shopped at stores that shipped.
The third reason is that, while I certainly like purchasing things, I hate shopping in stores, especially during Christmas season with the sensory overload of music-decorations-parking messes. When I shop in stores, my “inner guy” takes over: I decide ahead of time what it is I’ll get, go directly to find that item, pay, and leave.
And lastly, my gift wrapping skills are woefully non-existent. Thank goodness for colored tissue and decorative little bags.
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Wishing you a joyful Christmas Day.
Christmas concert from Madrid’s Palacio de la Zarzuela
Cuba remains the only dictatorship in the Americas, as repressive and hostile to human rights as ever. More repressive, in fact: Over the past 12 months, the government’s harassment of dissidents and democracy activists has ballooned. In November, according to Amnesty International, there were nearly 1,500 political arrests or arbitrary detentions of peaceful human-rights protesters. That was the highest monthly tally in years, more than double the average of 700 political detentions per month recorded in 2014.
On Dec. 10 — International Human Rights Day — Cuban security police arrested between 150 and 200 dissidents, in many cases beating the prisoners they seized. As is usually the case, those attacked by the regime’s goons included members of the respected Ladies in White, an organization of wives, mothers, and sisters of jailed dissidents. The women, dressed in white, attend Mass each week, then walk silently through the streets to protest the government’s lawlessness and brutality. Even the United Nations, which frequently turns a blind eye to the depredations of its member-states, condemned the Cuban government’s “extraordinary disdain” for civil norms, and deplored the “many hundreds” of warrantless arrests in recent weeks.
But from the Obama administration there has been no such condemnation. One might have thought that the White House would make it a priority to give moral support and heightened recognition to the Cubans who most embody the “commitment to liberty and democracy” that the president has invoked. But concern for Cuba’s courageous democrats has plainly not been a priority. Particularly disgraceful was Secretary of State John Kerry’s refusal to invite any dissidents or human-rights advocates to the flag-raising ceremony at the US embassy in August. To exclude them, as The Washington Post observed, was a dishonorable gesture of appeasement to the hemisphere’s nastiest regime — “a sorry tip of the tat to what the Castros so vividly stand for: diktat, statism, control, and rule by fear.”
For all the president’s talk about using engagement and trade to promote the cause of liberty and civil rights in Cuba, his policy of détente has been wholly one-sided. In aninterview with Yahoo! News this month, he was asked what concessions Havana has made over the past year. He couldn’t think of any.
But hey! Supporters of “normalization” justify it because “what we were doing before wasn’t working.”
It wasn’t working because the Communist regime won’t. Instead, it is asking for more.
Wishing you a wonderful, happy Christmas day!
Sir John Eliot Gardiner conducts the Monteverdi Choir and the English Baroque Soloists in a performance of Bach’s Christmas Oratorio BWV 248
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