By Jason Stverak
Thanksgiving evening, after the table is clear and the dishes are washed, has traditionally been a drowsy evening of nibbling leftover pie and visiting with family–a last deep breath before the rush of the holiday season.
GIVING THANKS: Spending time with family and sharing a meal are part of what makes Thanksgiving an authentic holiday.
In the last couple of years, however, this tradition has given way to something decidedly less Norman Rockwellian. Major retailers have pushed Black Friday all the way back into Thursday evening, or all day Thursday, bringing their employees in to work and crowding out family time and Thanksgiving dinner.
Brick-and-mortar retailers are in the middle of a second difficult decade, squeezed by rising costs, stiff competition from retailers online, a still-sluggish economy, uncertainty in the market and the political climate. They have obligations, not just to their shareholders but to thousands of employees who have to pay rent and buy groceries this winter.
To that end, retailers look to Thanksgiving Day sales as the boost they need to meet their bottom line and the edge they need over their competitors this holiday season. They motivate their customers with a sense of urgency and the lure of convenience.
But it’s still possible to understand the difficult economic climate retailers face and see the human face of this business decision. Thousands of those faces are dragged away from Thanksgiving, the last truly family-oriented holiday we celebrate, when faraway relatives travel hundreds of miles and over-scheduled children and grandchildren pause to spend a day with their elders.
These Thanksgiving Day openings have triggered a backlash of countless online petitions encouraging boycotts. Some retailers are using their decisions not to open on Thanksgiving as a goodwill marketing campaign.
Massachusetts, Maine and Rhode Island prohibit stores from opening on Thanksgiving Day, a throwback to their Puritan heritage. Commentators who usually look suspiciously on anything that resembles a “blue law” have had good things to say about these bans.