STEVE INSKEEP, host:
Now, the new focus on consumer lending comes amid fears about a consumer pullback during the holiday shopping season. But the Internet is expected to be a relative bright spot for retailers. NPR's Ted Robbins has more.
TED ROBBINS: The day after Thanksgiving has a name - Black Friday. It's the traditional start of the holiday shopping season. Mike Riddle runs a Web site called Black-Friday.net. It posts leaked Black Friday ads. And you thought only whistle-blowers leaked documents.
Mr. MIKE RIDDLE (Webmaster, Black-Friday.net): Some of the retailers actually send us the ads, and then the majority of them come from people in the printing press. They actually steal a copy of the ad, and they go home and scan it and then email it to us.
ROBBINS: This year, stores want customers ASAP. So Riddle says the sales have already begun, and the ads are telling him which items retailers are pushing.
Mr. RIDDLE: GPSs are going to be big this year. Laptops and Blu-ray DVD players are really big this year.
ROBBINS: Doesn't mean those items will sell, of course. If the Thanksgiving holiday isn't up to expectations, expect more markdowns. Sucharita Mulpuru is an analyst with Forrester Research.
Ms. SUCHARITA MULPURU (Principal Analyst, Forrester Research): Retailers will be desperate to make sure they're not left with too much inventory on hand. So I think that we could see some pretty good sales much earlier than Christmas Day.
ROBBINS: Mulpuru's company surveyed 1,000 shoppers and found that, unlike brick-and-mortar stores, online sites can expect higher sales - twelve percent higher this year than last. She says it's because online sites offer convenience, selection, and increasingly better service. And during the holidays, free shipping has become the norm.
Ms. MULPURU: My advice to any shoppers is that if you are shopping and you are not getting free shipping, you can probably find a competitor of that store that is offering free shipping, or you could probably just wait.
ROBBINS: Online shopping does have at least one hitch. As credit card companies lower spending limits and consumers take on less debt, traditional retailers are reporting more cash and debit card sales. Online, cash is not an option. Ted Robbins, NPR News.