It may be a little early to be thinking about the holiday shopping season. After all, we're in the middle of the World Series, and Halloween is still four days away.
But if all the shenanigans down in Washington and the constant economic gridlock have you worried about the cost of what you might have to spend this December, you're not alone.
According to an international survey of shopping attitudes commissioned by the digital coupon website Retail- MeNot.com, American consumers this year are among the most anxious in the world when it comes to holiday shopping. One in four Americans surveyed said they are already worried about the amount of money that they will spend in December.
Typically, though, Americans are planning to spend big anyway. More than half of U.S. consumers, 56 percent, believe they'll spend about the same or more than they did last year, according to the survey. This what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas attitude toward spending is probably one reason we have a credit crisis in this country, and a deficit that seems to get larger by the hour.
Maybe Americans really don't know when to hit the financial brakes, although it appears that some of them do. An additional 35 percent of Americans say they plan to spend less this year, indicating that a good portion of the consumers in this country are at least thinking about playing it safe.
Whatever side of the line you're on, it's a good bet that you've already started your holiday shopping. According to the survey, 40 percent of American consumers indicated that they would begin their holiday shopping before October, about the same number as in Australia (42 percent) and in India (41 percent).
The study, conducted by the French marketing firm Ipsos Public Affairs, surveyed attitudes and behaviors among shoppers in 11 countries. It found that most of the consumers who live in European countries don't go in for the early shopping like we do. According to the survey, most of them wait until December, and some, particularly in Italy, wait until after Christmas before hitting the stores.
Eighteen percent of Italian consumers plan to shop immediately after the holidays, much higher than the 5 percent average for all of the countries that were surveyed.
There's no American Thanksgiving on the other side of the pond, but if there was the numbers seem to indicate that strictly American shopping promotion/rituals like Midnight Madness and Black Friday wouldn't go over well. Only in America could you have riots in retail stores by people trying to cut short a holiday that's supposed to be about family to get a bargain.
In the United States, 90 percent of consumers say they plan to do some holiday shopping online. The average for all the countries surveyed is 84 percent. It's almost unanimous in China, where 99 percent of the consumers will take to their computers instead of hitting the stores.
It's hard to tell what all these data mean. It's kind of like picking what teams are going to be playing in the Super Bowl in September. All I know is that the next debt crisis the U.S. will face is coming up in January, a post-holiday present courtesy of our always thoughtful federal legislators. So, it wouldn't hurt to be a little prudent this year.
Holiday hangovers are never as much fun as the holidays themselves.
Back in September, we wrote about significant anniversaries that are being celebrated by longtime Berkshire businesses. That list keeps getting longer.
Berkshire Place is celebrating its 125th anniversary this year, Berkshire Communicators Inc. its 75th, Steven Valenti's Clothing for Men its 30th, and New Life Chiropractic its 20th. Those four businesses are all located in Pittsfield.
Bousquet Ski Area, one of the oldest ski areas in the Northeast, hit the 80-year mark in 2012.
Berkshire Communicators has an interesting back story.
A telephone answering service, the company was originally known as Medical Service Bureau. Founder Lillian Belcher started out in 1938 by setting up six phone lines on her coffee table.
The company changed its name to Berkshire Communicators in 1973 when it was purchased by Donald Thurston, A. Paul Willey and Richard Gore in 1973. The Gore family purchased the corporation in 1979.
Red Sox fans have tried to forget 1986 -- the year the ball went through Bill Buckner's legs -- for a long time, but Berkshire Communicators hasn't. That's the year the company replaced its cord board answering system with its first digitally automated system. Last year, Berkshire Communicators became the only company in New England to win an award from the Association of Tele-Services International 10 years in a row.
Great milestones for all.
Tony Dobrowolski is the business editor of The Berkshire Eagle. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.