Area businesses, along with retail outlets around the country, gear up this week for "Black Friday," the day after Thanksgiving that may or may not put them "in the black" for the year.

Black Friday is the busiest shopping day of the year. Many businesses open in the pre-dawn hours. Even the Harley-Davidson dealerships in Christiansburg and Roanoke open at 5 a.m. with huge discounts for the first three hours.

Many businesses aren’t waiting for Black Friday. Some offer deep discounts before Thanksgiving, hoping to encourage buying from a nervous public that’s worried about the worst economic conditions since the Great Depression.

Many economists expect massive business closings after the holiday season. Consumers are expected to stay home on Black Friday and the rest of the shopping season and those who do venture out are expected to buy less. Some stores, like Sharper Image, didn’t even make it to the season. They’re gone and others will surely follow.

Most people I’ve talked to say they are scaling back dramatically this holiday season. No big ticket items — just small gifts and a shorter list for holiday largess.

Probably just as well. Conspicuous consumerism has, for too long, been a hallmark of American excess.  A $25 Timex is more accurate than a $25,000 Rolex. A 50-cent pair of jeans from the Angels in the Attic thrift store in Floyd lasts just as long as the $75 designer duds from Macys.

Some analysts say the current economic crisis is a much-needed correction in American business and buying habits.

Perhaps it is.