A strong retail season weighs on today

Shoppers rush to get in a BestBuy store at 5 a.m. on in Los Angeles, Calif. -- November 28, 2008

TEXT OF INTERVIEW

Scott Jagow: This may be the one day the economy looks good for a while. All depends on whether people are buying. The retail sector is desperate for a strong start to the holiday shopping season. And all over the country, we do have reports of crowded malls and stores.

Marketplace editor Paddy Hirsch called in from the Great Mall in San Jose, California.
Paddy, what time did you get there?

Paddy Hirsch: I got here about half past midnight, the doors here opened at midnight. We would have got here at midnight, except there was a two or three-mile line to get into the parking lot down the street, so we actually couldn't get in until half past.

Jagow: Wow. And how about inside the mall, what's it like there?

Hirsch: It's a mob scene, the only way I can describe it. It's difficult to walk at more than shuffle pace in the stores, and even in between the stores. It's absolutely crammed with people.

Jagow: And what are you doing there?

Hirsch: Well, I'm standing in line. I'm with a group of six or seven women, and I'm clutching various pairs of pants and shoes and scarves as I shuffle forward in a line at Saks Fifth waiting to pay for everything.

Jagow: Six or seven women?

Hirsch: Yeah. I'm just the, I'm the token guy here, and I'm doing a lot of the paying, and I'm doing the holding while they do all the shopping.

Jagow: You've been covering this story for awhile now, retail sales and all that. Were you surprised to find so many people at the mall -- I mean, a two or three-mile line?

Hirsch: I was very surprised to see the length of the line. But what's more surprising is the fact that while there are a huge amount of people in this mall, I'm not actually seeing people buying that much. People aren't totting enormous bags or many, many bags. I think that a lot of the stores are not cutting costs enough, or cutting prices enough. I'm seeing 30 [percent], 40 [percent], I mean in some cases 50 percent knock-offs, but nothing more than that. I'm not seeing the big 60, 70, 75 that I might have expected in this economy.

Jagow: But it sounds like you bought some stuff.

Hirsch: Well, I've got a few things here. I bought a pair of shoes for myself. I haven't bought a pair of shoes all year, so I figure I can splash that one.

Hirsch: All right. Paddy Hirsch at the Great Mall in San Jose, Calif. Thanks.

Jagow: Cheers, Scott.

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