While there's not a name for it yet, we're sure to come up with a moniker for the shopping creep that's pushed Black Friday into Thanksgiving Thursday. I'll float "Presale Thursday," if anyone is interested in picking it up. I think it captures the idea of retailers opening up to give buyers even more toy-grabbing, line-standing, and old-lady-kicking time. Also, who doesn't love a presale?
The latest name to jump on the Presale Thursday bandwagon is Macy's (NYSE: M ) . Reports coming out of Chicago suggest that some stores will be opening on Thursday night and keeping the doors open for a full 24 hours. While the parade leader might be the most recent convert, it's by no means the only place to buy a discount casserole dish to replace the one Aunt Edith broke earlier in the day.
Presale Thursday business is booming
The Macy's news is getting a fair amount of press, but what it's doing is nothing new. Last year, dozens of national chains of all sorts opened their doors on Thanksgiving. Among the companies were big retailers like Wal-Mart and Target (NYSE: TGT ) , while some specialty retailers have held off. Until now, Macy's was in the second category, with companies like Best Buy (NYSE: BBY ) .
The reasons for adding on as much holiday hype time as possible are clear. In 2012, Target took in almost a third of its annual revenue in the last quarter. The percentages are slightly higher for businesses that sell fewer staples. Best Buy, for instance, took in more than a third of its full-year sales in the final quarter last year.
Macy's revenue has also been at or around the one-third mark, giving the company plenty of reason to want to jump on the bandwagon. For it and other retailers, the concern is less "Does this make sense?" and more "What is everyone else doing?" With the rise of Amazon.com (NASDAQ: AMZN ) and its 24/7 sales cycle, retailers are desperate to keep themselves in the game any way possible.
The human factor
While the need to compete with Amazon may drive a business to change its operating hours, it's not as though there's a lack of demand on the consumer side. We've all seen footage of crowds rushing through the doors of a Wal-Mart or Best Buy to get those loss-leading sales before the guy next to them. The sheer physical hype of a sale is something that Amazon can't yet compete with.
Increasing that edge is what retailers are banking on by adding on the extra few hours at the end of Thanksgiving. Studies have shown just how compelling Black Friday sales can be. Some families now regard the tradition of shopping with their loved ones as an integral part of the Thanksgiving holiday. The thrill of the confined physical space and the elation that comes with getting one of the big-sale items reinforces the enjoyment, and keeps us coming back for more.
That need for shopping success is pushing us to do more and more of our shopping over the Thanksgiving weekend. Last year, the number of Presale Thursday shoppers grew 20% to 35 million. Over the Black Friday weekend, 247 million shoppers went online or into stores, up from 226 million in 2011. As the whole weekend becomes more like Super Bowl Sunday, businesses are eager to get to the big game.
Employees are more of a mixed bag. Interviews with Macy's employees who might have to work on Thanksgiving showed mixed feelings, with some looking forward to the extra hours and income while others were upset about missing family time.
Taking a step back
With 2013 shaping up to be a weak year for retailers, businesses are looking for any additional dime within reach. Pushing doors open a few hours early may add a bit to the bottom line and consumers may be excited, but it remains to be seen if it's the right move.
Call it sentimentality or just a fear of crowds, but as our shopping, child-raising, and politics become ever more pugilistic, it's hard to see Thanksgiving get swept up in the hoopla. I don't have any rose-tinted glasses on when it comes to American consumers, but that doesn't mean I'm happy to see the change. I hope it works out for Macy's, but I'm not sure it's a sign of good things to come.
A more reasoned investment approach
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