Black November

Today, Black Friday, is the official start of holiday shopping, but retailers this year ushered in sales weeks ago. "Laden with excess inventory, hungry for sales and worried because of five fewer shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year, the nation's retailers went into a price-cutting frenzy long before the day after Thanksgiving, the traditional start of the holiday shopping season," reports the New York Times. S&P has predicted a 5 percent decline in holiday sales, while the National Retail Federation's optimistic prediction of 2.2 percent increase is still much dimmer than the average 4.4 percent holiday sales increase retailers have enjoyed over the past decade. Another heads-up for bargain hunters looking to avoid today's crowds: Online sales begin on "Cyber Monday."