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Love It Or Hate It, Black Friday Is Here


In the retail world, today is the day when balance sheets from the year are said to go from red to black - Black Friday, when holiday shoppers get serious. It's a bit of a myth. After all, many stores opened last night, and online retailing is of course transforming the industry. NPR's Sonari Glinton, though, is on the front lines in Los Angeles and joins us for an update. Good morning.


MONTAGNE: So where are you now? Where are you?

GLINTON: I am just - I am in one of those big strip malls just across from the fancy pants Grove shopping mall.

MONTAGNE: Oh, OK. And how's it looking? Are there crowds, or are they all sitting at home online?

GLINTON: Well, what's funny is it was probably busier at 3 o'clock in the morning (laughter) and...

MONTAGNE: And you were there (laughter).

GLINTON: ...And midnight.

MONTAGNE: You were out.

GLINTON: Yeah, I was here riding my bike around Los Angeles. It was - the streets were clear. And - but there weren't - there haven't been a lot of people in the early morning because there's a sense that people, you know, have gotten the experience on Thanksgiving. They're going to come out a little later today. And, you know, many people, more than a third of the people, are going to do some shopping online on their cellphone.

MONTAGNE: Well, also, a lot of money has been spent on mobile apps. How is that changing - I mean, by retailers. How is that changing the shopping?

GLINTON: Well, I mean, it's everybody. It's the retailer. It's the mall itself. You know, you can, you know, see where a parking space is for a lot of malls. Or, you know, you can order online and pick up in the store. You can price in the store. And some of the big retailers have it so that you can find an individual item where it is, GPS-located, down to the spot. I mean, all of these people are fighting against the big, 800-pound, you know, retail gorilla, which is Amazon. And Amazon has trained people that, you know, you can get it now. You can get it cheap, and the shipping will be free.

MONTAGNE: All right, so - so app - you know, apps as ways of finding what you need and not exactly having to go to Amazon for every single thing. Last year, though, there were a lot of problems with delivering goods on time. A couple of years ago, we saw massive data breaches. How's it going this year, as far as you can tell?

GLINTON: Well, a lot of the retailers last year made a lot of big promises about delivering, and they didn't tell the Postal Service or FedEx and UPS that. So this year, they kind of backed off of the promises. And, you know, so, you know, UPS and, you know, the deliverers can get packages on time. There's also been an introduction in the U.S. of chip technology, which makes your credit card a lot smarter. It's going to take a little longer at the checkout for you to sort of figure it out, but it really is a much safer technology than, you know, just swiping your card.

MONTAGNE: OK, so in 20 seconds or less, best place to get a deal - online or regular stores?

GLINTON: Well, it's probably going to be a mixture of both. But I'll tell you what, one of the places that doesn't - where you have a hard time getting online are cars. And car dealers are really going to have big, big deals today and tomorrow.

MONTAGNE: OK, Sonari, thanks much.

GLINTON: You're welcome.

MONTAGNE: NPR's Sonari Glinton. He's out there in the midst of holiday commerce on this Black Friday. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Sonari Glinton is a NPR Business Desk Correspondent based at our NPR West bureau. He covers the auto industry, consumer goods, and consumer behavior, as well as marketing and advertising for NPR and Planet Money.