Instead of a war on Christmas, this year consumers seem to be engaged in a war to save Thanksgiving.
Over the last few weeks, consumer sentiment seems to be rising regarding ‘protecting’ Thanksgiving from what is perceived as ever-encroaching commercialism in the form of ‘Black Friday.’ Having seen great success in opening their doors earlier and earlier on the Friday after Thanksgiving, many retailers (primarily big box retailers) moved their clocks back even further this year. Target, Wal-Mart, Toys R Us, Macys, and Best Buy have all declared their intent to open their doors earlier this year (from 10 p.m. Thursday evening to 12:01 a.m. Friday morning, depending on the retailer.)
These announcements seem to have engaged consumers, as on-line and real world petitions have been circulated, requesting these retailers to respect the sanctity that is Thanksgiving and go back to a 4 a.m. Friday morning opening. On Change.org, a website that enables on-line petitions, the petition to "Tell Target to Save Thanksgiving" is the second most popular of all time. Retail employees cite the desire to spend the day with their families. Consumers post on Facebook asking the retailers to "save Thanksgiving." Retailers counter with the claim of convenience for consumers as well as the need to be competitive.
We all know consumers don’t always do what they say they’re going to do. It’s likely that at least some of those petition signers will also be wandering store aisles after midnight, looking for great deals before other shoppers. But based on broader underlying shifts in consumer values regarding spending and consumption, we may have passed the moment of ‘peak Black Friday’ as consumers look to adjust their values long term.
Some other retail brands seem to be seeking to capitalize on this tempest by highlighting their opening times. For instance, Nordstrom seems to have gained some positive good will by zigging while others zag. Over the last couple of years, Nordstrom has garnered positive consumer sentiment by announcing "We won’t be decking our halls until Friday…we just like the idea of celebrating one holiday at a time." It does seem true, however, that the traditional Nordstrom shopper is likely less driven by midnight bargains on electronics and DVDs.
Of course, the most ironic part of this whole situation is that it only affects brick and mortar retailers. No one in their right mind is suggesting that Amazon or other on-line retailers close for Thanksgiving. In fact, the notion is a bit absurd. Part of the value of the on-line sales channel is that it’s always on – whether you’re watching TV, eating dinner or waiting in line at the bank. Online is always open. And this reality is probably the primary reason brick and mortar retailers feel the need to push back opening times…to not give up valuable holiday season dollars to on-line retailers who start their holiday push the minute consumers push back from the Thanksgiving table.
[Image: Flickr user amalthya]