There are various ways to assess the health of retail sales leading into Christmas - my own tends to be the kind of unscientific observation of just trying to be out and about, watching shopper habits. How hard is it to find parking? How many people laden down with bags? What's on sale in the stores?
My sense is that this is an okay, but not great, Christmas, nowhere near the retail madness of the bubble years. People seem to feel a little less economically insecure, but retailers were banking on a real explosion of pent up demand, and so in the final weeks therehas been a lot of desperation selling. There are insane markdowns. People crowd around sale items, but a lot of regular priced items sit undisturbed. Things are crowded... but not wildly uncomfortable.
I've been working a cash register in the final days of holiday madness a few times (okay, a heck of a lot), and this year... is not so madness. I've seen worse, much worse ("The Christmas Wars", this week, on History), and though some of my newer baristas are a little freaked out, most of the expereinced hands aren't getting more than they can handle.
And so, this past weekend, the last weekend before Christmas, came and went without much fuss. I closed Friday and Saturday night - usually two of the most hectic, least organized nights of the year... and not much happened. We were a little busier than last year... but not off the charts. Sunday night, I spent the evening with my friend Red, darting through Soho (like a lay-ser), picking up a few last minute things. As bad as Soho has become - it's all tourists and bargain hunters - we weren't especially crushed, and the whole thing was over pretty quick.
So why am I telling you all of this?
Just to tell you that Saturday, as I was getting ready to start work, Bill Clinton walked past my coffee shop on his way to his car. He looked in, smiled, and waved at me. Bill Clinton.
Yeah, it was pretty awesome. Merry Christmas!