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Black Friday kicks off holiday shopping with great anticipation

The anticipation and activity in the run-up to Black Friday has diminished through the years as retail shopping has shifted in its emphasis from in-store to online purchasing. In fact, the U.S. Commerce Department reported earlier this year that online retail sales had surpassed general merchandise sales for the first time in history.

Black Friday — what was once known as the biggest shopping day of the year for brick-and-mortar retailers — is not what it used to be.

Still, it's a big deal.

All across the west-central Indiana landscape, from shopping centers to strip malls to stand-alone general retailers, today will be a busy day. Even though more and more people are taking advantage of the conveniences of online shopping, the grand tradition of heading out for a shopping spree, especially during a holiday season, survives.

Changes in the retail marketplace are nothing new for Terre Haute and the Wabash Valley. Just 50 years ago, downtown Terre Haute, and the main streets and town squares of places such as Sullivan, Brazil, Clinton, and Paris, Ill., were the center of retail activity. But 25 years ago, that dynamic had changed. The small-town shopping districts were fading, and malls such as Honey Creek Mall south of Terre Haute had taken over as the go-to place for the retail experience.

The internet has changed so many things, including for consumers. The heyday of the shopping centers has passed. Change is the only constant.

Our local shopping outlets will remain busy places in coming weeks. Just how busy remains to be seen, although retail experts are generally upbeat about the upcoming holiday season nationwide.

Consumer confidence has been consistently strong since the Great Recession of 2008-09. But statistics indicate that may be softening somewhat. The consumer confidence index declined this month for the fourth month in a row. But it's worth noting that spending in October increased at the fastest rate in three months.

All that will shake out soon enough and we'll get a better idea how retail sales during the holiday season affects the overall annual spending rate. As the season kicks off, however, the holiday season is expected to produce healthy revenues at the cash registers.

For the sake of our local retailers, we hope so. For this area, strong retail sales will fuel a sturdy economy.

Enjoy your Black Friday, no matter how you plan to handle it. T'is the season.

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