Black Thursday, Formerly Known as Thanksgiving

by Jessica Sommerfield · 0 comments

Consumerism is a huge part of the American economy, particularly when it comes to the biggest shopping season of the year: Christmas. Last year, Americans spent an average of $700 per household on Christmas shopping, often as much as $200 per child. And, since the most shopping is done in the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas Day, there is plenty of pressure on retailers to take advantage of this window of opportunity. Traditionally, Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving) has been the biggest shopping day of the year.  Small-business Saturday was added to funnel sales into privately-owned businesses as well. Then with the increase in the popularity of Internet shopping, Cyber Monday rounded off the busiest shopping weekend of the year.

Thanksgiving itself remained untouched until the last few years, almost as if there were some code against it. It started subtly with online sales on Thanksgiving Day. Home shoppers not inclined to leave their warm beds early Friday morning were now able to take advantage of some of the great sales after consuming their turkey dinner.  Then in 2011 some retailers pushed back their Black Friday sales to 10pm or midnight on Thursday in an attempt to get the jump on other retailers and draw in night owl shoppers in addition to the early birds. Last year major retailers again competed for first sales events, and many opened at 8pm.  This year, it is rumored that a handful of major retailers will be starting sales as early as 6pm on Thursday.

It doesn’t take rocket science to guess where this trend is leading: Black Thursday. Of course they would never call it that, but it might as well be. There are a few camps of opinion on the impending overshadowing of Thanksgiving with Christmas shopping sales events. First of all, there is the traditional view that Thanksgiving is sacred and shouldn’t be blended into or trampled over by American consumerism and greed. Thanksgiving is traditionally a day to be spent with your loved ones, usually over a meal, enjoying and appreciating all the simple but priceless blessings in life such as food, shelter, and family.

Others would argue that no one is forced to shop on Thanksgiving Day, just as none of us is forced to eat more Thanksgiving dinner than we should (but it’s there, so we do). However, they fail to consider the large percentage of people who work in retail who have formerly enjoyed being able to stay at home with their families on Thanksgiving Day but are now forced to present, guard, and watch people fight over hot items not one but  two days out of the year.  Those who work in retail often have to work during peak shopping hours such as nights and weekends anyway, but formerly this didn’t include Thanksgiving Day, when most families are home eating a meal together and not roaming the store aisles.

But before we point our fingers are hyper-competitive retailers, who is really to blame in the  subversion of Thanksgiving Day into just another shopping holiday: retailers or their customers?

Retailers plan their sales events based on customer trends and feedback.  Obviously the response to last year’s 8 pm sales in many locations was a hit, so retailers are not only going to repeat it, they’re milking it for all its worth. No doubt the next step will be sales events starting Thanksgiving morning, or, since most people (who don’t work retail) have the day off, why not Wednesday night? As long as customers keep showing up in droves to buy huge televisions and cheap toys, the doors will keep opening sooner and sooner.

Meanwhile, you have the choice to either participate and revel in it, or stand back and mourn the loss of yet another over-commercialized holiday. Perhaps in a few years people will get tired of the craziness and force retailers to return to the  traditional Thanksgiving and Black Friday, or perhaps this is only another benchmark of an increasingly materialistic society.

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