Last year, several big-name retailers stretched the definition of “Black Friday sale” by opening their doors on Thanksgiving. This past month, Macy’s joined the pack, making this year the first time they’ve been open for Thanksgiving in their 155 years of existence. So what’s behind this historical decision? Competition has been tougher than ever and last year’s sales figures weren’t quite up to par, prompting Macy’s and other retailers to draw Black Friday crowds earlier than usual.
When you factor in increased competition from online sellers, it makes sense that traditional brick and mortar retailers are hustling to bring people to their stores earlier than ever. Customers are putting pressure on stores to stay open longer too. The round-the-clock availability of online shopping certainly impacts customer expectations and retailers’ decisions to push opening hours ever earlier is one way to meet the demand. Holiday sales are a crucial component of meeting annual retail goals, so as more and more people go online to do their shopping, we strongly expect see increasingly early Black Friday hours in the future.
Making the decision
Earlier this month, Macy’s was in the spotlight when its Black Friday ad leaked online, one of the first major ad leaks of 2013. Macy’s reportedly made the decision to open on Thanksgiving after witnessing large groups standing in front of the store’s Herald Square location in New York City to see if its doors would open. Finding them closed, they moved to Lord & Taylor stores, a major competitor of Macy’s, which was open at 10 am on Thanksgiving last year. Determined not to miss out on that anticipation again, Macy’s plans to open roughly 800 of its stores at 8 pm on Friday, Nov. 29.
Toys “R” Us was the first store to cross the Thanksgiving threshold two years ago, opening their stores at 9 pm. This shift has spurred heavy criticism stemming primarily from the idea that Thanksgiving is no longer the treasured institution – off-limits from consumerism – that it once was. Employees are also concerned about the change and several retailers such as Walmart, Target, Toys “R” Us and Macy’s itself have received employee petitions opposing the holiday store hours. No action has been taken as a result of the petitions so far, but the debate over stores being open on Thanksgiving will no doubt continue. Macy’s employees may very well be starting a new tradition that includes watching their company’s namesake parade, eating their turkey early in the day and working on Thanksgiving evening.
Media and consumer response to the holiday hours has been all over the map. Some are of the opinion that consumers deserve to have a choice whether or not they wish to go shopping. Hardcore bargain shoppers are thrilled to have an extra day and feel the extra time may result in a less stressful Black Friday. Still others feel that this is a corporate invasion on a traditional holiday, which should remain family oriented and free from corporate greed. One thing is for certain, spending Thanksgiving camped out in a store’s parking lot is one new tradition that will take some getting used to.
Macy’s photo courtesy of Flickr.