Count Your Blessings, and Then Buy Some More

What retailers gain and lose when they open their doors on Thanksgiving

By Natalie Hansen

As Black Friday has grown, and competition for consumer dollars has exploded, deals and sales have spilled over into Thanksgiving Thursday. Increasingly, major stores have chosen to open on Thanksgiving Day to get a jump on the Black Friday crowds. When customers started lining up Thursday night to be first in line Friday morning, stores saw an opportunity to draw those people in even sooner and boost sales by opening in the evening. Where these openings used to happen after dinner time, some stores are now extending the shopping to the early morning hours on Thursday – meaning some stores are open for nearly two days straight.

Kmart turned heads earlier this month when they announced that they’ll be opening at 6 a.m. on Thanksgiving. This means by the time the doors finally close on Friday night, the stores will have been open for 41 straight hours. Kmart stated that this choice was black-friday-macysmade to reach out to consumers who would just be shopping online anyway if the stores were closed that day. Other retailers, including Macy’s (in a major first for them), Walmart, Target, JC Penny’s, and Kohl’s have chosen to wait until after customers have had their turkey and will be opening at 6 p.m. or later, and stay open through the Friday frenzy. Opening earlier allows retailers to draw in consumers who are likely off from work anyway, and stress that the choice to open on the holiday is due to consumer demand. Some shoppers have even made lining up early and getting the best deals possible onBlack Friday a family tradition. If the shoppers don’t mind stores opening on Thanksgiving, what is there for retailers to lose by doing exactly that?

Potentially, good will and reputation. Despite crowds showing up in record numbers on Thanksgiving itself and Black Friday last year, there has been massive outcry after announcements by more stores that will open on the holiday this year. Some Kmart employees have claimed that they are not allowed to even request Thanksgiving off to be with their families. A “Save Thanksgiving” petition, which demands that all retailers stay closed on Thanksgiving Day, has gathered over 200,000 signatures. The petition signers are horrified that a holiday meant to show thankfulness, already unfortunately followed by Black Friday, is now becoming a day centered on materialism. The internet’s reaction to Walmart’s choice to open earlier than ever at 6 p.m. ranged from complete disgust and sympathy for the employees to worry that the best deals would be out of reach for those choosing not to shop on Thanksgiving. Certain retailers, such as Nordstrom, have attempted to boost their reputation by making a point of staying closed on Thanksgiving Day. Companies’ images have been tarnished in years past thanks to mob-induced injuries and worse. Riots, over-the-top fights, and a trampling death in 2008 (which Walmart has still not paid the fine for) scare some shoppers away from Black Friday festivities all together. And despite all the craziness, Black Friday is not even the biggest shopping day of the year in America; that honor typically goes to the Saturday before Christmas.

Despite that fact, it appears that the Thanksgiving/Black Friday debate will continue black-friday-shopperslong into the future. Unless sales are far below expectations on Thanksgiving, stores will continue to open earlier and earlier to compete for the most shoppers. If shoppers want to get the best deals, they will have to show up earlier and earlier. So, where is the line drawn for a business debating being open on Thanksgiving Day? Is the public backlash worth the revenue gain? For a struggling business, the answer could be yes, even if there is employee outcry – extra revenue means they get to keep their jobs. But the financial damage done by a tarnished reputation is real as well. As consumers, we also have to decide what’s most important for us. Is it spending time with our families, or making sure we can get them the best gifts possible to show our love? Will the next generation even have time to count their blessings at the dinner table before rushing off to buy more?

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