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Consumers Fight To “Save Thanksgiving” From Black Friday Madness

Based on broad 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.

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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.

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[Image: Flickr user amalthya]

About the author

Russ is an expert on brands and sustainability, and currently serves as Global Director, Strategy and Insights for Siegel+Gale. Since becoming a marketing professional, Russ’s focus has been helping companies across the globe deliver remarkably clear and unexpectedly fresh brand experiences.

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