Yesterday I found the traffic near my local shopping center a bit heavy so I had to edge between cars to enter the center, but once I got into it the parking lot looked practically empty. Maybe less than half full. I didn't notice any crush of people in the market, which is where I went then.
Today I went to Home Depot, Linens 'n Things, two drugstores, a market, and a toy store, and none of these places was crowded. Further, I noticed that the drug stores and market had far fewer toys than I have seen on their shelves in the past. I've been ruminating over that one. The reason I noticed is that today, in addition to running errands, I started my Great Toy Hunt. Each year I like to purchase a small pile of toys that I put into various toy donation barrels around the city and beyond. This year I decided to spend $200 on this endeavor. I managed to pick up some standards - etch-a-sketch, a little piano keyboard, an adorable stuffed polar bear (that one's going to be hard to let go of) and a few other things, but it was hard work finding them. I look for basic, durable, reliable toys, preferably with few parts and preferably without batteries (but I do make exceptions, like with the keyboard). I also prefer to avoid branded toys, like Disney, and movie spinoff toys. That's just me, of course. The toy store is a local one, slanted toward the better toys and the learning toys, so that place was really fun to be in and I'll be back. I expect I'll also hit K-Mart for their generic toys, like the little kitchens and cash registers and things like that. This toy hunt is one of the things I love doing the most.
In addition to seeing few toys I saw few people. In Linens 'n Things you'd think everyone had gone home. Everyone who worked there, that is. Then again, that particular store always seems that way, as if they don't give a damn if you want something or not. I was surprised one day to discover that they have several cash register counters. I have only seen one open ever.
So my guess is that this season is starting rather slowly. I'd say it has hardly gotten started at all. Remember. You heard it here first.