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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Black Friday Shopping Binge; Clash at the Gaza-Israel Border

Aired November 23, 2012 - 08:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. I'm John Berman.

ALINA CHO, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Alina Cho. Soledad has the week off. Our STARTING POINT, back in black. While you were sleeping, shoppers came out in force. Retailers couldn't be happier.

BERMAN: Except at Wal-Mart, where a Black Friday strike threatens to hit the huge company right where it hurts.

CHO: Plus deadly gunfire at the Gaza border. Will it upset the uneasy truce in the Middle East?

BERMAN: It is Friday, November 23rd, Black Friday and STARTING POINT begins right now.

(MUSIC)

CHO: Good morning, everybody. It's 8:00 in the East, the day after Thanksgiving.

Our STARTING POINT: deck the malls with tons of shoppers. Stores across the country have been open for hours now. In keeping with the Black Friday tradition, some of the biggest retails got a jump on that by opening on Thanksgiving.

BERMAN: It appears there are plenty of bargains to be had.

CNN's George Howell is checking that out for us. He's at a Best Buy store outside Atlanta.

George, what are you seeing?

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, good morning.

Look -- you look around this store, there are a lot of deals to be had. Just take a look at this, you know, you save, what, $40, $40 here, $30 here. When you look around the store, you know, the biggest deals were the laptops. A lot of laptops are gone now. The televisions, the flat screen TVs, marked down some $20 in many cases.

Really important for stores to do this, especially a store like Best Buy, John. Keep in mind, this is a store brand that had a disappointing third quarter earnings. They're doing everything they can to make sure they get the best bang for their buck on this Black Friday.

I also want to bring in a couple of shoppers. Kevin and Andrea Miskewicz.

You guy do this every year, yeah?

ANDREA MISKEWICZ, SHOPPER: Yes. We come on Black Friday every year getting stocky stuffers, electronics for our house. It's a tradition.

HOWELL: Kevin, what are we -- what are you buying today?

KEVIN MISKEWICZ, SHOPPER: Toys for me. Getting ourselves a nice new TV for one of the rooms in our house. It's good to have some toys on Black Friday.

HOWELL: William, pan over here. Look at this. This is kind of cool. So, maybe we can interview you here while I talk to you.

Tell me this. Do you feel more comfortable spending money this year than last year?

K. MISKEWICZ: We do. It's been a good year for us. And the economy is doing well. And we're happy to be back out here supporting it.

HOWELL: And your thoughts?

A. MISKEWICZ: Absolutely. I completely agree. I mean, this year, Kevin has a new job.

HOWELL: Right.

A. MISKEWICZ: You know, I'm teaching fourth grade. I mean, I feel like we're at a point where we want to be generous with our Christmas shopping.

HOWELL: Guys, thanks for taking time with me.

K. MISKEWICZ: Thank you.

HOWELL: You know, and you hear that from a lot of shoppers. We spoke to a person just earlier who said the same thing. That she feels more comfortable shopping this year.

You know, this morning, when the store opened at midnight, you saw those people searching for the deals. I spoke to a few people who work at the store and they say, look, after 9:00 a.m. Eastern here in this store, that's when they expect to see those shoppers who plan to buy the bigger purchases.

So, you know, we're seeing more and more people come in. As the day progresses, Best Buy is counting on getting as many people in the store as possible, John.

BERMAN: George, you know, that family, they're having their TVs, stocking stuffers. I want to do the holidays at their house.

(LAUGHTER)

BERMAN: You have a -- HOWELL: Yes, and maybe they'll get us something.

BERMAN: Thanks, George. Good to see you.

CHO: Well, if you're just now planning out your Black Friday strategy, guess what, you are way, way behind. The doors at Macy's stores across the country opened at midnight. Bargain hunters race to be the first to snag the very best deals. Some retailers opened earlier, 8:00 or 9:00 p.m. last night despite the holiday.

I want to bring in Macy's CEO Terry Lundgren. He's standing outside the Macy's flagship store in New York, in Herald Square.

Terry, good morning. Great to so you. Happy holidays.

TERRY LUNDGREN, PRESIDENT & CEO, MACY'S: Good morning, Alina. Happy Thanksgiving.

CHO: Yes. Congratulations on a beautiful, beautiful parade yesterday. Just spectacular and perfect weather.

Meanwhile, as I just said, the doors opened at Macy's at midnight. How is it going so far?

LUNDGREN: So far, it's going great. You know, I have a personal commitment that I've had for all of my career to be here at the opening of our stores on Black Friday. And so, of course, I was here 11:30 last night and it was a record crowd at Herald Square.

And it was great to stand at the door and watch this stream of humanity coming through our doors. I was there for 18 minutes, and it didn't stop. It just kept coming and coming and coming.

To me, this is a great day. I mean, what else can I say?

CHO: You get into the spirit, don't you? I mean, stream of humanity, such a regal way of putting it, by the way, Terry.

You know, I want to bring up some numbers here. As you know, many retailers moved up their sale hours to Thanksgiving, 8:00, 9:00 p.m. in some cases. You did not decide to do that.

You know, if you look at the numbers, yesterday alone on Thanksgiving Day -- really incredible, 41 million people across the country went out to shop. Black Friday, 80.5 million are expected. But you can't ignore that 41 million.

Would you ever consider moving the time up, Terry, maybe next year?

LUNDGREN: You know, it's not in the cards for me. I mean, I'm sure I'll get pressured. I never want to say never.

But at this point, I think we've got the right strategy. We do something that other retailers don't do. It's called the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. So my employees are very busy on Thanksgiving because most of what you see out there on the streets is volunteers from Macy's, including myself. I'm out there.

And so, frankly, I want a little bit of a break before I leave the parade and just go right to work. So, I'd like to have a Thanksgiving dinner as my employees would like to have their Thanksgiving dinner before we show up for work at midnight.

CHO: Yes, that's right. Digest that turkey a little bit, too.

Meanwhile other than, say, Justin Bieber fragrances, what are some of your best deals at Macy's this holiday season?

LUNDGREN: Yes, and that was a big, big hit. It's great to see all these young women charging through the doors and saying where is the Justin Bieber fragrance?

But also, it was boots. The $19.99 rampage boots are flying off the shelves. We've got great value. Cashmere sweaters that usually sell for over $100 are under $50 today. There's lots of interesting electronics and throughout the home furnishings area.

But you know what's great, Alina, is that we went after 250 different items that are just blockbusters, great values and we bought them in depth, and we did it throughout the store. So, you'll find values throughout the entire store at Macy's.

CHO: I'm sure you can. I might try to head down there myself some time in the next week. Meanwhile, Terry, I've got --

LUNDGREN: I'm against your purchasing last year.

CHO: Hey, listen, I got a question.

LUNDGREN: I have to offset it.

CHO: Yes, that's true. That's true.

OK. So let's talk a little bit about some of the problems we've seen over the years, you know, stampedes. I mean, you've seen the videos. Stampedes and near violence at a store in Sacramento that we've been talking about. Any problems at any of your Macy's stores across the country?

LUNDGREN: We haven't had any problems. I don't know what that means exactly in terms of the crowd that we attract. But I can tell you that we work very hard at this. We're prepared for this.

This store gets more traffic than most any store in America. And so, if there's going to be a problem, it would probably be in this store and there was zero problems. I mean, people were friendly. They were positive. They were up.

And it was a huge line of traffic. But it was a very controlled environment.

CHO: That's great to hear. Care to offer a prediction on holiday sales? I mean, is today and yesterday -- well, I guess, midnight -- you opened at midnight. Is today, is it going well so far? And do you think it will be a strong holiday season for Macy's?

LUNDGREN: I do. I mean, we've had 11 quarters of just fantastic growth and sales and earnings and I suspect that's going to continue in the fourth quarter. I've already said we're going to be up over 4 percent in the fourth quarter. We were up over 5 percent last year and up 4 percent of the year before. So, we've just got a track record of success.

But particularly around the fourth quarter -- I mean, customers are choosing us to give a gift. And so we suspect that that pattern will continue. And we feel very good about it.

I think, now, November is going to be more challenging for stores like ourselves, who had 200 stores closed for the first few days of the period due to hurricane Sandy, of course. But I think today is going to be big.

And then, of course, December has an unusual calendar. This is -- this is the unusual calendar where we have more days between Thanksgiving and Christmas than in any other calendar period of any year.

And that's good overall but it means it will be slow at the beginning and it will be -- last minute will be very, very powerful. So, the week before Christmas will be a big rush. And we suspect you won't know how you're doing until you get to that week before Christmas.

CHO: That's right, because people like me wait until that week to shop.

Terry Lundgren, I wish you the very best this holiday season and my best to your family. Terry Lundgren, the CEO of Macy's -- thanks so much for joining us. Great to see you.

LUNDGREN: Thanks, Alina.

BERMAN: Hard-working man today, no doubt.

CHO: Yes, he is.

BERMAN: All right. Nine minutes after the hour.

We have some new reports of violence in Gaza near the Israeli border this morning. According to Hamas security sources, a group of farmers and protesters were participating in anti-Israel demonstration in the security buffer between the two regions, an area they call "no man's land". Hamas claims Israeli forces fired at the protest, killing at least one Palestinian man and wounding 19 others. There were also reports six people were hurt in the same area yesterday.

Now, despite the violence, the cease-fire there is still holding.

Meanwhile, protests have started to erupt after President Mohamed Morsi gave himself new powers. Nile TV in Egypt says protesters stormed the headquarters of Morsi's political party in Alexandria and set it on fire. Morsi issued an order that says the courts may not overturn any of his decisions until the country drafts a new Constitution. And some Egyptians are now calling him a dictator and United Nations officials say it raises human rights concerns.

CHO: Watch for this. This morning, First Lady Michelle Obama will welcome the White House Christmas tree. That's a look at last year's Christmas tree. This year's will be a 19-foot Fraser fir. It will arrive at about 11:00 a.m. from Ash County, North Carolina. And ultimately, it will be displayed in the Blue Room.

BERMAN: Time to look back at the other Thanksgiving tradition, a triple serving of NFL football on Thursday. It all started in Detroit with Houston Texans winning 34-31 in overtime against the Lion.

Now, this game was marred by controversy, a gaffe by Lions coach Jim Schwartz who mistakenly threw the challenge flag on this touchdown run by Houston's Justin Forsett. Replay showed he was clearly down. But the rule said if you challenge a scoring play, you're actually penalized. And more importantly, you negate an automatic replay review. It's like a double whammy.

I would expect that rule to be changed soon. It really could have caused -- probably did cost the Lions the game. Still the coach should have known better.

Meantime in Dallas, the Cowboys lost to the Washington Redskins 38-31. Quarterback RG3, Washington's Robert Griffin III was the star. He threw for over 300 yards in four touchdowns, showing off his canon arm right there.

As for the biggest turkey of the day, that would be the New York Jets, who just got a beating at the hands of the mighty New England Patriots, 49-19. The game wasn't even that close.

CHO: You just love reading this story, don't you?

BERMAN: I do. This is one of the best kids I've ever seen in my life. The Patriots scored three touchdowns in 52 seconds. Here's on special teams right there -- Julian Edelman taking it into the end zone right now. It's almost mathematically impossible to score three touchdowns in 52 seconds, but the Patriots found a way. It was coach Bill Belichick's 200th win as head coach.

CHO: I remember years ago when the Boston Red Sox won the World Series and I believe you were working for another network, and I was working here and I covered that story, and I don't think I've ever seen you happier.

BERMAN: I got married and had kids. But other than that, I don't think I have ever been happier.

CHO: Proud, proud moment for John Berman.

Twelve minutes past the hour.

Rob Marciano, you know, as I've been saying, I took off my coat yesterday. It was beautiful here in New York but chillier temperatures are on the way, I hear.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, that's true. If you don't have a jacket, John, you may want to at least wear, you know, the flap jacket because I don't know how you survive past Columbus Circle sometimes with your -- the joy that you bring when your team gets defeated by a New England team.

CHO: Exactly, you're talking to a New Yorker there, right? You know that.

BERMAN: Seventeen years and counting, Rob. Hanging in there.

MARCIANO: You know, it's a tribute to just how popular you are.

(LAUGHTER)

MARCIANO: Good morning, guys.

All right. We're looking at a cold front that's going to be sliding across the eastern half of the country, eastern third of the country.

You know, the boss -- Macy's boss made a good point. So, this has been an early Thanksgiving. Maybe that's the reason why it's been so darn warm on the eastern third of the country yesterday for your turkey.

That's about to change. We've got cold air that's just pouring down from Canada. Huge change is on the way. With that, some winds. So, if you're traveling air-wise, through Chicago, Detroit, Minneapolis, Seattle and Portland, you'll have some issues, but not nearly as bad as it was on Wednesday. That was just a mess, especially through Chicago.

Seven to nine inches with the winter storm warning for the U.P. of Michigan. We've already seen eight plus inches in some parts of Wisconsin. And the winds are going to gust to maybe 40 or 45 miles an hour. That will slow down some travel also.

Here is your line where the cold front is. Not too big of a deal as far as the precip goes, but temperatures were in the 60s in Chicago. It will be in the 30s today. Wind chills are lower than that, 55 degrees. One more nice day in New York. Bottom drops out tomorrow.

CHO: All right, Rob.

MARCIANO: John, Alina, back to you.

CHO: Thanks so much. Have a great weekend.

BERMAN: All right. Ahead on STARTING POINT, a deadly shooting this morning in Gaza as Israeli forces kill a Palestinian protester near the border. Could this break the fragile truce there?

CHO: And later, have you got your lottery ticket yet? The numbers keep growing and growing. Powerball jackpot fever on the rise again. We'll tell you how much. You're watching STARTING POINT.

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BERMAN: Welcome back to STARTING POINT, everyone.

While there is officially a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, militants in Gaza -- we are getting reports of new violence along the border. According to Hamas security sources a group of farmers and protesters participating in an anti-Israel demonstration in a security buffer between the two regions, an area they called no man's land there.

Hamas claims Israeli forces fired at the protests, killing at least one Palestinian man and wounding 19 others.

The international community is beginning to debate what it means for this decades old conflict.

Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas prime minister, spoke to reporters yesterday in Gaza City.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ISMAIL HANIYEH, HAMAS PRIME MININISTER (Through Translator): The victory of Gaza is a solid truth, not a phenomena. The era of Egypt and the region has changed and America has now beginning to learn a new and listen to a new language.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: No doubt the political landscape of the Middle East is undergoing dramatic changes, but with no long-term agreement between Israel and Hamas, lasting results to this conflict is still anyone's guess.

Joining us now from the West Bank city of Ramallah is Diana Buttu, who's a political analyst for the Institute from Middle East Understanding and former adviser with the Palestinian Liberation Organization.

Diana, are you hearing me OK?

DIANA BUTTU, POLITICAL ANALYST, INSTITUTE FOR MIDDLE EAST UNDERSTANDING: No.

BERMAN: You're not hearing me? All right. We're having some audio problems here, guys. I guess we'll go to break, we'll come back, and we'll see if we can get Deanna.

Ahead on STARTING POINT how one young man went from addiction to drugs to helping others find a healthy high. We will meet him on this week's "CNN Hero." That's coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BERMAN: Welcome back, everyone. We've been reporting all morning there's been a shooting on the border between Israel and Gaza. Israeli troops reportedly firing into a protest of some Palestinians who were protesting right near the area known as no man's land. Hamas security forces say that one Palestinian has been killed and several others injured.

This, of course, just after they have declared a ceasefire in the tensions there. How will this affect the ceasefire? We're joined now by Diana Buttu, who is in the West Bank city of Ramallah. She's a political analyst for the Institute for Middle East Understanding, she's a former PLO legal adviser.

Good morning, Diana. Thanks for being with us. Sorry about the audio problems before. Let me ask you first off about this slight skirmish along the border, this shooting. Do you think that will affect the ceasefire?

BUTTU: I think it just might. You know, we're now coming into 165 Palestinians who have been killed over the course of nine days. And these people -- the young man who was killed today was actually a farmer who was trying to go to farm his fields. There is absolutely no evidence that this was a demonstration. There's no reason why the Israeli army should have gone out to shoot him. So this puts something that is very fragile and makes it even more fragile.

BERMAN: This does of course come just -- you know, two days after the bus bombing in Tel Aviv, something now that there has been arrests for. That also test this is fragile ceasefire. No?

BUTTU: Well, the incident regarding the bus came before the ceasefire took place. Look, I think we have to put this in its proper perspective, which is that unless there is an end to Israel's military occupation over the Palestinians, not just in the Gaza strip, but also in the West Bank and in east Jerusalem. Yes, there's going to continue to be violence. There's never been a situation in history where people who are subjugated to oppression sit by idly and let that oppression take hold.

This is why I think it's very important for the international community to come forward, put a lot of pressure on Israel, and demand that it ends its military rule over the Palestinians. This is the only way that we're actually going to be able to see progress in the Middle East.

BERMAN: Let's talk about the political dynamics right now within the Palestinian community. A lot of people right now are talking about what role the Palestinian authority should be playing versus what role Hamas is playing, whatever dialogue they may be.

And International Crisis Group released its analysis, saying, quote, in part, "One thing is clear. Whatever else it turns out to be, the new order does not look kind to the non-Islamist side of the Palestinian national movement. With attention focused on Gaza and Islamists doing the fighting and the negotiating, President Abbas and Fatah, as well as the prospects for a two-state solution, are on the losing end. Then again, what else is new?"

Has Islamists effectively taken over the Palestinian movement?

BUTTU: No. But what I think is happening now is that this is definitely showing that the time has come for there to be reconciliation between all of the Palestinian factions. And the fact that there hasn't been reconciliation has made it that much easier for Israel to continue to carry out its strategy of taking more Palestinian land and getting rid of as many Palestinians as possible.

This is why there has to be a new Palestinian strategy that brings together the factions of Hamas and the factions of Fatah and comes together with a new strategy. The old strategy of trying to pursue negotiations failed. And it will never work. So this is why Palestinians have to now come up with something new, something different that demands sanctions on Israel, that demands accountability for Israel's actions and that puts Israel in its proper light, which is that of an occupier.

This is the only way that I think we'll be able to move forward. If we continue to try to mask this, we are going to see changes in the region as we already have seen changes. This is why this issue becomes so central.

BERMAN: All right. Diana Buttu, joining us from Ramallah, thank you for hanging in there with us. I appreciate this morning.

Ahead on STARTING POINT, a delicate truce appears to be -- appears to hold between Israel and Hamas despite that shooting over night. We will go live to Jerusalem next to get the Israeli side of this argument. You're watching STARTING POINT.

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