Friday, November 15, 2013

Is there a war on Thanksgiving? Or are stores serving consumers?

“Thanksgiving is more than eating, Chuck ... we should just be thankful for being together.”
–Marcie to Charlie Brown in "A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving"

For most, Thanksgiving is a time to spend with family. For others, however, it's a work day just like any other, and becoming increasingly so as the trend grows to open retails stores on Thanksgiving Day, getting a jump on Black Friday sales.

This year the list of stores planning to open on Thursday, perhaps looking to beef up their bottom line or maybe just satisfy consumer demands, includes some of the best known in the country: Kohl's, Penney's, Toys R Us, Kmart, Walmart, Macy's, Target, Old Navy, Sears, Staples, Michael's, Gap, and Best Buy.

Other retailers will keep their doors closed: Radio Shack, Costco, REI, Nordstrom, Burlington Coat Factory, and American Girl have specifically noted their desire to allow employees to enjoy the day at home with family.

Thanksgiving opening times are increasingly encroaching on the turkey. A few years ago some stores opened at midnight, then moved it to 10:00 p.m., then 8 p.m, and this year most plan to open at 6:00 p.m.

Kmart, however, has announced Thanksgiving Day hours beginning at 6:00 in the morning. I guess that allows for shopping while the turkey is in the oven. I can hear it now early on Thanksgiving: "Hon, could you keep an eye on the turkey? I'm going to dash out to Kmart to grab that video game Johnny wants for Christmas."

But what about traditions like watching the Macy's Thanksgiving parade on TV while cooking in the kitchen and cheering on James Madison University's marching band this year as they perform in New York City? What about the family time spent together whipping up sweet potato casseroles and pies and stuffing as the generations mingle, grandmother showing grandchildren her technique for stuffing the turkey while the guys watch football games on TV?

Perhaps new traditions are being formed: Breakfast out, then shopping, then home to cook the Big Meal. Maybe some of those shoppers are employees who have to work on Black Friday so need to check off holiday requests when possible. Others may just be watching their bottom line by stretching their holiday dollars with deep price cuts. I remember our tight budget when our kids were little. We were a one-income family so I took advantage of spectacular sales on items from the wish lists.

Whichever it is, one thing is for sure: it's a personal choice for stores and consumers. One cannot exist without the other.

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