Thanksgiving Day: The New Black Friday

At what point does it stop? Retailers are running herd-like into opening up on Thanksgiving Day, and while most retailers seem to be limiting themselves to the less unseemly evening door-opening time, Sears Holdings (NASDAQ: SHLD  ) will have its Kmart division lower the bar by opening at 6 a.m., and then staying open for 41 hours straight. Whereas Best Buy (NYSE: BBY  ) is opening later in the day on Thursday, it also plans on a marathon schedule, staying open right on through until 10 p.m. Friday night.

Now, closeout specialist Big Lots (NYSE: BIG  ) is following Sears into the breach, announcing it will also open early, at 7 a.m., on Thanksgiving Day and then will open again at 6 a.m. on Black Friday.

With the barrier of good sense and taste having been broken, it's only a matter of time before it's no longer considered an egregious affront to open your doors on Thanksgiving Day, and soon most retailers will do it. While some companies like Apple and Nordstrom believe it's better to hold to tradition and, thankfully, stay closed on the holiday, soon that may no longer be the case. 

Following the National Retail Federation making up out of whole cloth the Cyber Monday myth a few years ago, it didn't take long for e-commerce companies to turn it into a reality. However, their brick-and-mortar brethren sought to maintain the momentum and began extending their Black Friday sales through the weekend. Indeed, last year the entire weekend shopping bonanza was one big record-breaking event, with $59.1 billion spent online and at stores.

Now, this year, Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT  ) is working the calendar in the other direction and announced it will offer its Black Friday discounts this Friday. Sears has been rightly scolded for truly blurring the lines by beginning its Christmas selling push before schools had even reopened for the fall. But how long before retailers start thinking that opening the morning of Christmas Day itself will also be a good idea, just to squeeze out of the season that last bit of sales from the true last-minute shoppers?

Sure, there are some mitigating factors for the pell-mell rush to start the Christmas shopping extravaganza early this year. A weak economy has retailers worried that sales will be soft to begin with, and then there's the quirk of the calendar that lopped six days from the traditional start and end of the shopping season -- just 25 days this year compared to 31 in 2012. Since next year there will be just 28 days, retailers are going to once again be feeling the same pressure.

My guess is the bad taste this is leaving in the mouths of consumers will only fuel online shopping even more. There's mounting anecdotal evidence anyway of a consumer backlash, and we may see it exhibited in the form of higher online sales numbers. Market analysts already expect e-commerce sales this month and next to jump 15% over last year, far outpacing the growth expected at stores with a physical presence. And with the harm the extended sales season will inflict on the profits of retailers, this might be a (hopefully) short-lived phenomenon.

Go shopping at Kmart, Wal-Mart, or Big Lots on Thanksgiving Day if you must, but if for some reason I can't resist the urge to not spend money for just one day out of the year, then I'll fire up my computer and place an order online. Retailers say they're only providing what the consumers want, but it's certainly not what I want, and I imagine there are quite a few people who feel the same way.

How do you feel about stores opening on Thanksgiving Day? Will you be one of those out there hitting the aisles for the best deals, or like me, will you be taking the opportunity to spend time with family and friends and enjoy one another's company? Let us know in the comments below.

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Comments from our Foolish Readers

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  • Report this Comment On November 24, 2013, at 3:20 AM, jasonrothman1 wrote:

    I for one will not take part in this "madness" that has consumed us primarily in the USA. I consider it an addiction to spending and over-consumerism that both the retailers and the consumers are to be blamed for. I equate it to a drug addict (consumer) needing just another "fix" from their "pusher" (retailer).

  • Report this Comment On November 24, 2013, at 6:58 AM, Btu2000 wrote:

    Enough is enough. I work for a big box retailer and personally being scheduled 7 pm to 3 am on Thanksgiving and returning to work 7 am till 5 pm is just plain insane. The panic has been set. Marginal retailers may not even survive. We all have too much "stuff" anyway.

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