We are all familiar with the Black Friday scene: tens to hundreds of people lined up in the freezing cold just before midnight to get into a large chain store, only to get trampled when the doors finally open. Anything for that $100 flat screen!
Shoppers attempt to weave through the crowds at a Target store on Black Friday.
(Image from REUTERS)
Recently, however, this sight has been changing. Nowadays, big businesses are advertising even better deals, even earlier in the season—like on Thanksgiving Day, for example. What is the reason for this, and who does it really benefit?
Public relations representatives for some of the offending businesses say they are opening on Thanksgiving because it is what the customers want, not for sales benefits. Haven’t you seen the petitions that have been going around for years, demanding stores open on a day on which most people look forward to relaxation? You’re right; we haven’t, either. The housewife with the overbearing in-laws who have been invading her home for a week—she would probably embrace any excuse to duck out before Thanksgiving dinner is served. But what about the employees who now aren’t even given a choice? They could be harboring some resentment for the company that forced them to plaster on a smile and fish out a large gray cardigan for an unappreciative customer, all while their families are back at home enjoying a hot meal and quality time together.
Another (likely more honest) reason given for opening on a national holiday is that more and more stores are doing it, so competitors also need to in order to keep up with sales. Take this hypothetical situation for example: If Macy’s is open on Thanksgiving Day, J.C. Penney will be giving up a chunk of potential profits to Macy’s if Penney’s does not follow suit. Or that’s what brand leaders fear, at least. In reality, economists find it likely that opening on Thanksgiving is really just displacing sales due to the law of diminishing returns. In other words, people who may buy on Thanksgiving this year are the same customers who last year bought on Black Friday; this year they are shopping on Thursday instead of—NOT in addition to—Friday.
Our hypothetical J.C. Penney needs to ask itself: If Macy’s jumped off a bridge, does that mean Penney’s should do it to? Is that really what is best for J.C. Penney? If the higher ups at these businesses really think so, then that’s their prerogative to make that business decision. They should just beware of the public outcry (people who aren’t part of the apparent mass that’s begging stores to open on a national holiday) by those who prefer Thanksgiving to remain a day to “give many thanks” rather than a day to “buy cheap stuff.”