The New “Black Friday”

The New “Black Friday”

What is the old saying “money talks.” For whatever reasons, and there are many, eleven of the country’s largest retailers will open on Thanksgiving. Some of these retailers will open as early as 5:00 PM on Thanksgiving and stay open continuously until late evening the following day, Black Friday. Many retailers aren’t exactly thrilled about the longer Thanksgiving hours, but they are locked in a battle for market share. Last year, consumers spent $2.5 billion dollars on Thanksgiving, about 25% of the $9.7 billion dollars spent on Black Friday.

President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day during the Civil War on October 3, 1863. He asked that the nation give thanks for the Union on the last Thursday of November. Many of us now lament the steady erosion of the Thanksgiving holiday. Over the past decade we have seen people camped out in front of stores to take advantage of “Black Friday.” As sales grew more widespread, stores began to open at midnight, then at 8:00 PM on Thanksgiving evening, and now 5:00 PM on Thanksgiving. Some stores are just plain open all day. I ask myself “is nothing sacred anymore?” The answer comes back to me: “No, nothing is sacred anymore.”

Many of us remember when Sundays were quiet days with most stores and businesses closed. However, that went away by the mid-1970s. Thanksgiving and Christmas were the last holdouts. With the steady rise of secularism, the notion that anything is sacred seems strange, antiquated and restrictive. The point was that certain days and times were sacred and we carved out room and gave reverence to them. My family always gathered together on Thanksgiving. My grandfather would carve the turkey and it was a time when our whole family gathered, prayed and ate together. This was a sacred time for us.

What happened? The growth and expansion of Black Friday, the day in which many retailers see their bottom line financial results for the current year go from red to black, has carried over onto Thanksgiving itself. Published surveys indicate that the number of shoppers in millions has grown from 132 million in 2005 to 249 million in 2013. Black Friday marks the unofficial beginning of the Christmas season and many employers giver their employees the day off as part of the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. It is the busiest shopping day of the year. Many department stores begin their new expanded store hours on Black Friday. Many stores begin to open as many as 16 to 18 hours per day!

At the heart of the matter is the fact that without consumers there would be no need for such a hectic and expanded hours and no erosion of Thanksgiving itself. However, I am not foolish enough to see many people standing up against this Christmas shopping blitz. Christmas has become so expensive that even the most conservative of us would have a hard time not jumping on the bargains that entice consumers in stores. The average American parent will spend an average $271 per child. Total Christmas sales generate between $586.1 and $600 billion dollars. Sadly, I see a further erosion of Thanksgiving as the trend is all but impossible to stop. Sad, but this is reality in America today.

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Written by
Donald Wittmer