The day after Thanksgiving is the biggest shopping day of the year, right? Certainly that's the conventional wisdom, but like "It don't rain in Indianapolis in the summertime," it turns out to be dead wrong. For the last six years, the post-Turkey mall smash isn't even second, third, or fourth.

According to the International Council of Shopping Centers, these are the top three for the last six years:

                                         Fri. After
Year  1          2            3         Thanks'g
2001 Sat. 12/22 Sat. 12/15   Fri. 12/21   No. 6
2000 Sat. 12/23 Fri. 12/22   Sat. 12/16   No. 5
1999 Sat. 12/18 Thu. 12/23   Wed. 12/22   No. 8
1998 Sat. 12/19 Wed. 12/23   Tue. 12/22   No. 8
1997 Sat. 12/20 Mon. 12/22   Tue. 12/23   No. 7
1996 Sat. 12/21 Mon. 12/23   Sat. 12/14   No. 10

This certainly bolsters the case that most retailers are made or broken each fourth quarter -- except more data reveals that a huge chunk of buying occurs in the fifteen days after Christmas. The joy of statistics is that they allow many different interpretations. Perhaps we have become a nation of procrastinators, rushed to distraction and unable to focus until pressed. Or maybe we have learned to play a high stakes game of chicken with retailers over our loved ones affections -- holding out until either the stores put everything on sale or we blink.

For those investors who follow retail, the ICSC's Website provides strong nourishment. It projects, tracks and analyzes consumer non-auto retail spending patterns this way and that, up and down, in and out. It also provides a few fun facts, such as Santa arrives at most malls on November 16th. Who knew?

How are retailers luring us into their lairs this year? Dayana Yochim has the scoop.