Did shoppers spend a ton on Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and through the beginning of this week? Did stores make their numbers? Are iPads still the hot buy, malls the place to be, and is the Internet Hoovering more sales than ever?
Speculation seems foolish when the real data doesn't come out for a few more months. So instead of nibbling on unripe questions, feast on a few nuggets about the gift-giving race. What follows should make the guessing game a bit interesting, if incomplete.
Anyone surprised that holiday shoppers continue to break online purchasing records has spent little time adopting New Digital Ways. IBM reported this week a 20.6 percent increase in online sales on Cyber Monday compared with that same day a year ago. Growth was 16.5 percent when tallying online purchases made from Thanksgiving through the Monday that followed.
Tops among American cities in Cyber Monday sales: New York. Philadelphia ranked seventh in cyber buys the Monday after Thanksgiving.
It may be tempting to assume that department stores remained asleep at the online switch while Internet-savvy competitors stuffed their virtual sacks with consumer cash. But that would be . . . wrong.
Department stores saw Cyber Monday sales grow 70.3 percent, with average order value also up, 18.7 percent, to $161.83, over last year. The once-endangered department store, in other words, is in the Internet game big-time.
Nearly a third of all online traffic on Cyber Monday came from mobile devices - a 45 percent increase over last year. Actual purchases on mobile devices also soared, to 17 percent of all online sales that day, IBM said. That amounts to an increase of 55.4 percent over last year.
But tech-savvy shoppers weren't just tapping away on any old touchscreen to finalize the deal. IBM found smartphones were used more to browse, and resulted in only 5.5 percent of all online sales. Tablets, on the other hand, drove 11.7 percent of all Cyber Monday online sales.
The tight budgets of all but the wealthiest U.S. households continue to alter the shopping scene, a trend that has stuck since the 2008 financial markets crash.
This year, with Black Friday clearly no longer the daylong kickoff to the holiday spending spree, the race for that limited consumer cash extended over a days-long marketing orgy of "Holiday Deals and Doorbusters!" as retailers opened earlier and pushed sales on many days.
The National Retail Federation found that 27 percent more people shopped on Thanksgiving this year than last year, both online and in stores - a reflection, at the very least, of the very many more stores that opened that day compared with last year.
But did shoppers splurge? If only. They spent, on average, less than last year from Thursday through Sunday, NRF estimated: $407.02 compared with $423.55 a year ago.
One of the most interesting scenes at King of Prussia mall on Black Friday was inside the one department store where perhaps the most is at stake this year: J.C. Penney Co.
Capping what must have been several weeks of frenzied shuffling of displays, the department store was dense with racks of merchandise. It was a complete turnaround from the sparse displays that former chief executive Ron Johnson ushered in during a period that saw the retailer hemorrhage billions of dollars in sales. His ouster came in April.
The return of a Penneys tradition - free snow globes to all customers - and the sight of such deals as $13.99 women's cable knit sweaters seemed to draw more Black Friday customers than last year.
Said store manager Greg Watson: "This is our return back to where we were two years ago."