When I heard that more retail stores plan to open on Thanksgiving this year, I felt dismayed that shopping was tainting the purity of one of my favorite holidays.
Then I remembered I live in a nation of consumers and that Americans vote more with their dollars than they do at the ballot box.
Retailers began experimenting with Thanksgiving Day shopping a few years ago with stores like Macy’s, JC Penney, Best Buy and Target launching Black Friday sales a day early. The experiment is now a full-fledged trend, but of course, not all shoppers or merchants are joining in – many are outraged.
Instead of enjoying turkey and all the dressings with their loved ones, some people will be forced to work next Thursday. And what about those helpless shoppers who can’t resist a good deal? Are greedy retail companies taking advantage of them?
“The thing with Black Friday shopping is that people love it or hate it – there’s no in between,” said Jeff Green, a retail consultant based in Arizona. “The folks who love it are going to be there no matter what, and perhaps even on Thanksgiving Day.”
For some merchants, just keeping the doors open and the lights on translates into more sales and means they can get ahead of competitors on holiday shopping.
“Retailers figure if they are the first to get you, they’ll get more of your dollar,” Green said.
He’s not convinced that actually happens. Stores often lose money on door-busters like, say, a $200, 50-inch flat-screen television. The idea is that shoppers will buy more stuff once they are in the store.
Last year, Green parked himself in Macy’s on Thanksgiving and observed that most shoppers picked up a door-buster item and quickly left without buying anything else.
Also, retailers have shied away from talking about Thanksgiving Day results, Green said, and none have publicly said it’s been a success during the past two years.
Seattle-based department store chain Nordstrom does not plan to open on Thanksgiving, but might be open to it, said spokesman Dan Evans.
“If our customers let us know they want us to be open on Thanksgiving, we will certainly listen to the needs of our customers and how they want to shop,” he said. At this point, customers haven’t made a strong case. And, if customers who are itching to shop on Thanksgiving can always visit the company’s web site.
Even on those last-minute trips to the grocery store on Thanksgiving, shoppers encounter signs reading, “We’ll be closing at 5 p.m. so our employees can enjoy the holiday with their families.”
Those messages remind me that the point of holidays is to disconnect from our everyday lives. I love Thanksgiving because it centers on spending time with family and friends and eating a delicious meal minus the pressure to exchange gifts.
I don’t plan on hitting the stores that day. Like most years, my main activity will likely involve moving from the couch to the dining table and back.
I respect any consumer’s right to shop whenever they see fit, but I have to wonder, “Wouldn’t you rather stay on the couch?”