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VOL. 127 | NO. 232 | Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Lori Turner

Lori Turner-Wilson

The Evolution of Black Thursday

By Lori Turner-Wilson

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If some of the big retailers had it their way, Thanksgiving would evolve from a day of thanks with one’s family to a full-day shopping extravaganza. And based on consumer response this year and last, that’s just where we’re headed.

Retailers, more than ever, are commercializing Thanksgiving to give those who want to get a jump on holiday sales, versus watching hours of football, that chance. Plus, they are trying to vigorously compete with online sites for those valuable early holiday dollars.

The result? This year, 35 million Americans ventured out to retail stores on Thanksgiving Day, up from 29 million last year, according to the National Retail Federation. What’s more, 89 million shoppers braved the Black Friday crowds or shopped online Friday, up from 86 million last year. And if last year is any indication, those retailers electing to open on Thanksgiving for the first time generated at least a 20 percent increase in sales over the entire Black Friday weekend.

The bottom line is that retailers opening earlier are not simply trading Friday sales for Thursday. They are seeing growth in total holiday sales as a result, offering incentive for this earlier opening trend to continue, to the exasperation of many.

The question is: How much earlier can stores open without cutting into Thanksgiving dinner? Granted, the holiday shopping season is crucial for retailers – a period when they typically generate between 20 and 40 percent of their revenue for the entire year – but where is the line?

This year, more and more consumers skipped the holiday altogether to line up for early sales, and should even earlier hours be offered next year, more consumers are likely to stop the tradition of saying thanks with their families.

While two years ago opening on Thanksgiving evening may have been a risk, retailers have learned that the reward was greater than the backlash from consumers concerned about their holiday (and that of the retailer’s employees) being infringed upon.

An exciting trend this year is improved Web shopping experiences combined with retailers offering door busters online with no shipping charges, removing the necessity to shop in-store. In fact, many retailers began offering door busters online even before their stores opened.

So, whether you prefer to skip the early bird madness and shop on Thanksgiving, or you feel frustration about this infringement on your holiday, this trend is a reality, at least for the near-term. Either way, you can voice your views with your dollars.

Lori Turner-Wilson is an award-winning columnist and Founder/CEO of RedRover Sales & Marketing, www.redrovercompany.com. You can follow RedRover on Twitter (@redrovercompany and @loriturner) and Facebook (facebook.com/redrovercompany).

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