It will be interesting to see how Black Friday shapes up this year. That’s because for many retailers, Friday starts on Thursday. More stores are opening on Thanksgiving Day, and according to Dealnews.com, 38 percent of us will start our holiday shopping then. Some analysts have even coined a moniker for what’s happening: Gray Thursday.
One of the reason for the push this year is that Thanksgiving falls at the very end of the month. In fact, November 28 is the latest date the holiday can ever fall – it’s always the 4th Thursday in November. It would be mathematically impossible for it to occur any later.
So by that measure, assuming the shopping season really does kick off with Thanksgiving weekend, there are indeed fewer shopping than usual before Christmas this year. Of course retailers are concerned.
But 135 million Americans are poised to shop this weekend (before Cyber Monday next week), and that figure likely won’t change just because stores open a day earlier than usual. In other words, the rush will simply be spread over four days instead of the usual three. So the push to open on Thanksgiving may not net more total sales.
Except for this: Stores not open on Thursday may lose customers to those that are. Will people who might normally shop at Dillard’s – which is closed this Thanksgiving – shop at Macy’s instead, which is? That’s the big question.
And in an interesting twist, some stores that aren’t open on Thursday are promoting that as a point of difference. Nordstrom’s and Costco, for example, tout that employees deserve that time off to spend with their families. The implied message: They care about the true meaning of the holiday more than those other greedy retailers.
Then there is the confusion of when the deals really start. Walmart – which is open all the time in most locations anyway – kicks off the Black Friday discounts at 6 p.m. Thursday. Then more deals start at 8 p.m., then others start on Friday itself. (And the Walmart website has already been promoting “Black Friday Week” with deals that are “ready now.”) It feels a little complicated; the messages may become lost in the clutter of trying to figure out when to buy.
Of course, with on-line shopping, the whole concept of “store hours” seems almost antiquated anyway.