Take Back Thanksgiving

Nov 19

What do big box retailers like Macy’s, Target, Staples, and Toys ‘R Us all have in common? This year they will be open on Thanksgiving Day. Why? Because consumers demand it and holiday sales projections are down, sending retailers to scramble to bring in every consumer and every dollar they can get through their doors before they have spent their cash everywhere else… Don’t just blame the big box stores, it is consumers that drive this “need” for an extra shopping day. (If you show up, they will open…)

“If you are out shopping for Christmas on Thanksgiving Day, you either really love or really hate your family.” – Jimmy Kimmel

Why does it matter?
Back when I managed a local camera store, 56% of our annual sales came within a month between Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. Over half our annual sales in one month!¬†Just like the big box stores, small local retail shops rely on holiday shopping to help get them through the year. It was bad enough when big box stores created the wave of insanity of door-buster deals with people camping overnight to assure their place in line to receive the maximum discount! Most “mom & pop” stores simply aren’t able to open that early and they certainly don’t have the margins to give “loss leader” discounts in order to trick consumers into buying more widgets at full retail prices. As a result, local businesses lose on Black Friday. “Black Friday” originally got its name because it was the day retailers finally gpt their numbers out of the red and into the black. But, for many local retailers, as Thanksgiving Day becomes a new shopping day, the color black might signify a period of mourning.

Small Business Saturday – I’ll admit, when American Express first launched their campaign, I was a huge supporter. I gave speeches about it, I wrote blogs about it, I even paid for online ads to promote it. On the surface, it seems like a great idea! Support small business! Make Saturday your day to shop with local businesses! You know, after you already did 72% of your holiday shopping on Black Friday and Thanksgiving. Yeah, make sure to help out the little guy before you spend another 23% online on Cyber Monday because, hey – free shipping! (see insider tip below)

Do you see the problem here? “Small Business Saturday” is a lovely notion, but I worry that it is nothing but an empty promise from a behemoth bank. If you’ve ever wondered why American Express chose Saturday instead of Friday, it’s not because of the poetic alliteration of the title, it is because the big box stores would have completely revolted if Amex had developed a campaign to actually compete with their biggest day of sales. The big-boxes understand and they are still in control, “Aw, sure – throw the little guys some scraps, we have already trained consumers to shop the way we want them to shop. Besides, most people will be recovering on Saturday, not shopping… The sales are already ours! Bwuhahahaha!!!”

I’m not suggesting that you don’t shop with your small local businesses on Saturday, I’m suggesting that you have some money left in your pockets when you do! Better yet, no – don’t shop on Saturday! Why aren’t you visiting your local businesses on Black Friday to begin with? This is their day, too! Make EVERY day Small Business Day! (That’s right… Because you’ve been trained that day is a special day. A day reserved for big brands and big deals.)

Again, this isn’t to say that SBS isn’t a worth idea. It’s just to point out some simple math. According to recent reports, the average American will spend about $740 this year on Christmas gifts. With Black Friday being the biggest shopping day of the year, and now, with Thanksgiving Day being positioned as some sort of exclusive VIP preview (for anyone willing to die in a mob), there are only so many dollars to go around.

Wednesday: Get food organized, pick up family at airport, plan Christmas shopping trips
Thursday: Have turkey, skip dessert in order to rush to Macy’s, Target, Toys ‘R Us, and K-Mart set up tent in parking lot at Best Buy
Friday: Best Buy, WalMart, Home Depot, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Kohl’s, Ross, Sears
Saturday: Rest after an exhausting week, have a leftover turkey sandwich, stop by a local store to relieve a little guilt and get free customer service
Sunday: Return relatives to airport, start wrapping presents, most local stores are closed anyway.
Monday: Shop online to cross the last people off your lost, because – free shipping!!!

Insider Tip: When you buy from a local store, you ALWAYS get free shipping. In fact, you don’t even have to wait a few days to receive your widgets! You can actually take them with you when you leave the store! Amazing!?!?!

Thanksgiving is probably my favorite holiday. It should be about family and friends. It should be about giving, not taking. It should be about quality, not quantity. It should be about sitting and enjoying, not standing in line and fighting. Do me a favor – send a message to big-box America and stay home next Thursday. Instead of getting a group of friends together to fight with strangers over a coffee maker, stay home and fight with your family over a board game! TAKE BACK THANKSGIVING!

It’s not just my day job. I have never understood the fascination with fighting crowds for widgets I could buy any other day of the year. I’d happily pay retail in order to avoid bodily harm.¬† Support small business everyday! Otherwise, they’re coming for you…

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