Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Black Thursday: Forget the Turkey and Your Family and Go Buy More Stuff!!!

Will our ever-growing obsession with Buying More Stuff end up turning the entire 24-hour period now known as Thanksgiving Day into Black Thursday?

Probably. And how depressing. At least The Miami Herald’s brilliant political cartoonist, Jim Morin, managed to convey the craziness with a little humor.

Last year, major retailers including Walmart, Toys R’ US and Target threw their doors open on November 22nd to throngs of holiday deal-hunters. Consumers by the millions shook off the post-turkey tryptophan lethargy and dashed away shortly after Thanksgiving dinner, afraid of missing bargains on the most in-demand gift items.

And that meant possibly hundreds of thousands of low-paid employees had to forsake their family celebration to be on retail sales floors, ready to smile and cheerfully risk a serious bodily injury to greet the oncoming stampede. Take a look at this disturbing video of a mob scene inside a Walmart store as crazed shoppers nearly climb over one another, screaming and having tugs-of-war over marked-down smartphones. 

Looks like a cattle round-up gone horribly awry, doesn’t it? Well, it also looks like this year a handful of sensible retailers are saying no to the insanity and keeping their stores closed until it’s actually Black Friday.

Apple CEO Tim Cook recently announced that, with the exception of three stores in New York City, Las Vegas and Hawaii, all Apple stores will be closed on Thanksgiving so employees can relax and spend the holiday with their families. Several other retailers, including Nordstrom, Costco, Marshall’s and Home Depot have also decided to buck the Black Thursday trend.

“Call me old-fashioned, but I feel that it’s an easy decision to make,” BJ’s Wholesale Club CEO Laura Sen told the Huffington Post, adding that workers deserve “a nice holiday with their families.”

Amen to that. How about just being thankful for what we already have?

Now, I can put on my marketing hat and acknowledge that yes, stores need to remain competitive and yes, the period between Black Friday and Christmas Eve is by far the most important of the year for retailers. In fact, for some, it represents between 20-40% of annual sales, according to the National Retail Federation.

Furthermore, putting in long, grueling work hours during the holiday shopping season has always been a fact of life for retail employees because that’s just the nature of the beast. And they know that.

But isn’t it enough that most big retailers already open at 12 a.m. on Black Friday? Giving employees those few extra hours to enjoy their Thanksgiving feast with loved ones doesn’t seem like too much to concede.

Last year Brendan O’Kane, CEO of OtherLevels (a ThinkInk client), mused in a guest post on Retail Merchandiser – after reading that Macy’s would be open around the clock the weekend before Christmas – about the possibility of a holiday shopping season where stores just don’t close at all.
I wouldn’t be at all surprised if this scenario actually becomes real within a few years.

And on that wildly cheerful note, I and the whole ThinkInk staff would like to wish our readers and clients a beautiful and peaceful Thanksgiving holiday close to their families and far from the madding crowd at the mall.

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