OLD Media Moves

Forget Black Friday, many shopping on Thanksgiving

November 29, 2013

Posted by Liz Hester

In the quest to grab as big a share of people’s holiday shopping budget as possible, more and more retailers are opening their doors on Thanksgiving. While Black Friday has traditionally been the day for people to spend money, those looking to get the best deals are shopping earlier than ever before.

The New York Times had this story with an excellent anecdote to begin:

Before most Thanksgiving turkeys even approached the oven on Thursday, a small line of tents had formed in front of a Best Buy in Falls Church, Va., their inhabitants waiting for the holiday deals to begin. First in line was William Ignacio, who pitched his tent at 2 p.m. on Wednesday.

Traditionally, the holiday shopping season kicks off on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. But every year, more stores are opening on the holiday itself and keeping their doors open longer, beginning in the predawn hours and stretching through the day.

“The sales are good,” said Divya Quamara, 25, who stood in an Old Navy in Manhattan on Thanksgiving afternoon. “And the stores are open.”

In Annandale, Va., rock salt had been sprinkled on the parking lot in front of the Kmart that opened at 6 a.m. Though the temperature was just below freezing, a handful of shoppers were lured out of bed for discounted electronics or to browse in advance of Friday’s sales. Wind had partly dislodged a plastic banner hanging above the entry.

The Associated Press led with retailers instead of customers shopping:

Stores are hoping holiday shoppers will gobble their turkey on Thanksgiving afternoon, but save the pumpkin pie for later.

As more than a dozen major retailers from Target to Toys R Us open on Thanksgiving Day, shoppers across the country are expected to get a jump start on holiday shopping. The Thanksgiving openings come despite planned protests across the country from workers’ groups that are against employees missing Thanksgiving meals at home.

The holiday openings are a break with tradition. The day after Thanksgiving, called Black Friday, for a decade had been considered the official start to the holiday buying season. It’s also typically the biggest shopping day of the year.

But in the past few years, retailers have pushed opening times into Thanksgiving night. They’ve also pushed up discounting that used to be reserved for Black Friday into early November, which has led retail experts to question whether the Thanksgiving openings will steal some of Black Friday’s thunder.

In fact, Thanksgiving openings took a bite out of Black Friday sales last year: Sales on turkey day were $810 million last year, an increase of 55 percent from the previous year as more stores opened on the holiday, according to Chicago research firm ShopperTrak. But sales dropped 1.8 percent to $11.2 billion on Black Friday, though it still was the biggest shopping day last year.

“Black Friday is now Gray Friday,” said Craig Johnson, president of Customer Growth Partners, a retail consultancy. “It’s been pulled all the way to the beginning of November.”
Stores are trying to get shoppers to buy in an economy that’s still challenging. While the job and housing markets are improving, that hasn’t yet translated into sustained spending increases among most shoppers.

Overall, The National Retail Federation expects retail sales to be up 3.9 percent to $602.1 billion during the last two months of the year. That’s higher than last year’s 3.5 percent growth, but below the 6 percent pace seen before the recession.

USA Today found the best lead, a family who celebrated Thanksgiving on Wednesday in order to shop without the hindrance of family obligations on Thursday:

 Asked what day Thanksgiving is each year, Katie Brenner’s kids can barely wait to answer.

“I know this one!” says 6-year-old Alex Brenner, waiting in line Thursday afternoon at a Toys “R” Us store in Asheville, N.C.

“It’s on the very fourth Wednesday, every year, on every November,” she says. “You eat turkey and green beans, you go to sleep, then you go for big shopping.”

Katie Brenner covers her daughter’s ears and whispers.

“They don’t even know most people celebrate Thanksgiving on Thursday,” she says. “All the good stores open on Thanksgiving now, so we just have to celebrate a day early.”

Maybe Thanksgiving Day isn’t a secret in most homes, but more families are celebrating the day as the Brenners did — standing in line to score bargains as the holiday shopping season is launched.

Much of the criticism around shopping on Thanksgiving is that it takes away a holiday for people who have to show up and work in the stores. Fox News had a counter story about laws that prevent retailers to be open on the holiday:

As workers across America protest against working on Thanksgiving Day, laws that may date back to the Colonial era are keeping shoppers and employees in three states at the dinner table.

In Rhode Island, Maine and Massachusetts so-called “blue laws” prohibit large supermarkets, big box stores and department stores from opening on Thanksgiving.

Business groups say the laws are unnecessary barriers during an era of 24-hour online retailers, but many shoppers, workers and even retailers say they appreciate one day free of holiday shopping.

“I shop all year. People need to be with their families on Thanksgiving,” Debra Wall, of Pawtucket, R.I., told The Associated Press.

The holiday shopping frenzy has crept deeper than ever into Thanksgiving this year. Macy’s, J.C. Penney and Staples will open on Thanksgiving for the first time. Toys R Us will open at 5 p.m., and Wal-Mart, already open 24 hours in many locations, will start holiday deals at 6 p.m., two hours earlier than last year. In recent years, some retail employees and their supporters have started online petitions to protest stores that open on Thanksgiving — but shoppers keep coming.

No matter when you decide to start shopping, someone will have to open the doors, restock the shelves and run the registers. As retailers strive to better each other, they’re also pushing steeper discounts and costly days of labor. Soon, the competition could drive some to a loss.

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