Did You Shop This Thanksgiving Weekend?

This year, a number of big retailers opened their doors on Thanksgiving (Walmart, Toys R Us, and Kmart) while others opened at midnight (Macy’s, Target, Best Buy, and Kohls). Per Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst at the NPD Group, “Retailers recognize the importance of being convenient, and one of those conveniences is opening earlier so people don’t have to wait in line at 4 in the morning in the cold.” (abcnews.go.com) Are retailers really thoughtful and considerate of the shoppers’ comforts and needs, or are they feeling the pressure to perform?

Most retailers generate 20% to 40% of their annual sales between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Since 2003, Black Friday has been the busiest shopping day of the year, and in 2010, sales were flat. This sales performance reflected the country’s economic condition. With stronger economic conditions, retailers want to capitalize on the opportunity to increase sales. You might have noticed that some retailers set up Christmas displays in October, advertise holiday-season price guarantees, and opened their stores on Thanksgiving (Black Thursday).

How do you feel about Black Thursday? Do you view Black Thursday as another tactic trying to dictate shopping behavior and or devalue the holiday and family time? Or do you view it as an additional opportunity to save money? If shoppers had any negative sentiments toward Black Thursday, it was overshadowed by sales. Per the National Retail Federation, 226 million shoppers visited stores and websites during the Thanksgiving weekend this year, which is a 7% increase over last year. In addition, nearly one quarter (24.4%) of the Black Friday shoppers were at or visiting already open stores by midnight versus 9.5% in 2010 and Black Friday retail sales grew 7% (NRF.com). Are the retailer strategies paying off and resonating with shoppers? Will Thanksgiving become one of the busiest shopping days of the year?

Shopping behaviors are developed over time, and retailers have influenced the Black Friday shopping behavior by opening their stores early and offering door incentives. Once again, retailers are trying to change the shopping cycle and shopper behaviors. Retailers would like to expand the holiday shopping period and not have shoppers chasing the lowest prices and waiting until the end of the season to make purchases (projected top three shopping days: Friday, November 26; Saturday, December 17; and Friday, December 23) (ShopperTrak Holidays). Therefore, retailers are setting up displays in October, advertising price guarantees, and opening their stores on Thanksgiving.

Some retailers state that they are opening early to provide comfort and convenience to shoppers, yet their employees are inconvenienced and have to leave their families and the comfort of their homes on Thanksgiving to work. The motive behind the retailer’s behavior is reaching sales goals and winning with the shoppers. Now the million-dollar question is: will the rest of the season experience growth versus year ago and will we see a shift in 2012 shopping behavior?

Contributed by Kimberly Chatman

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