Let’s Face it, Shoppers Want Black Friday to Begin on Thanksgiving
Retailers, shoppers and employees are on-board for another early start to Black Friday on Thanksgiving.
Did you know there are just 25 shopping days between Black Friday and Christmas this year? That’s nearly a 20% decrease in shopping time over the 2012 holiday shopping season. With the shortest shopping period between Black Friday and Christmas in the last 10 years, retailers and consumers are beginning to ramp up for an even earlier start this holiday season.
For example, Macy’s recently announced select retail locations will be open at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving to get a jump on Black Friday. That’s the first time in Macy’s 100+ year existence that the company will open on Thanksgiving, likely an attempt to compete with retail giants like Walmart and Target that have been progressively opening earlier in more locations over the last ten years.
Of course, retailers have good reason to open earlier and offer aggressive sales during November. Both the National Retail Foundation (NRF) and Accenture are predicting spending increases among consumers this year, specifically 3.9% and 11% respectively. The NRF’s prediction is slightly higher than the actual sales growth of 3.5% from 2012.
Here at Ben’s Bargains, we conducted our 2013 Holiday Shopping Survey with a respondent pool of approximately 3,000 consumers drawn from our core users. When asked if they planned to spend more or less this holiday season, 82% said they would spend the same amount of money or more this year. When asked how much they plan to spend on gifts this year, over half of consumers plan to spend a minimum of $500 and 18% will spend upwards of $1,000 this holiday season.
Which Stores Want You to Skip the Tryptophan?
As mentioned previously, Macy’s was one of the first retail stores to announce a Thanksgiving Day opening time. Other stores that are publicly on board with early opening times include J.C. Penney and Kohl’s. It’s also likely that Target, Walmart, Sears, Kmart and Toys ‘R Us will have a Thanksgiving night opening in order to repeat last year’s success. Last year, most large retailers opened between 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Thanksgiving night to kick off Black Friday sales.
Thanksgiving openings were definitely a success for retailers last year with over 35 million consumers hitting the stores or shopping online. According to an NRF study of the 2012 shopping season, that’s approximately a 20% increase in traffic over the previous year. If the same growth rate continues this year, retailers could see upwards of 40 to 45 million consumers hitting stores and logging onto sites on Thanksgiving night. Our survey data also points to another big sales day on Thanksgiving with less than 4 out of 10 consumers wanting retailers to stay out of Thanksgiving.
In a statement regarding Kohl’s early opening, chief customer officer Michelle Gass said:
“Shopping over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend has become a much-anticipated tradition enjoyed with friends and family. As many customers are eager to get a jump start on their shopping, we are opening our stores at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day as a convenience to our customers who want to make Kohl’s their first stop.”
Beyond Thanksgiving Day, retailers are likely to have a strong Black Friday weekend as well. According to our survey data, over a third of consumers will start their holiday shopping between Black Friday and Cyber Monday. In addition, 97% of survey respondents will be using online shopping, either mobile or desktop, on Black Friday to snag great deals.
Shoppers are Leading the Charge to Earlier Sales
This retail push into Turkey Day and even earlier sales during the month of November can be attributed to consumers as well. When we asked consumers when they planned to start shopping this year, nearly the same amount of people plan to start shopping prior to Halloween when compared to people starting during early to mid-December. Overall, 45% of consumers plan to start shopping prior to Black Friday. Even more interesting, 60% of female respondents plan to start prior to Black Friday, most of whom will start shopping during early to mid-November.
Accenture’s 2013 Holiday Shopping Survey shows a similar trend. Nearly one-quarter (23%) of respondents stated they had already begun shopping for the holidays and more than 70% stated that they would be done before the end of November. A couple reasons behind the early start include spreading out the total holiday budget as well as reducing stress by avoiding the holiday crowds.
When we asked consumers about their opinion of the early Thanksgiving day openings, approximately 61% either liked the early sales or didn’t have an issue with stores opening early. Accenture’s survey also supports this data with more than a third of shoppers reporting that they will be shopping on Thanksgiving Day.
Interestingly, consumers aren’t just shopping for other people this year. Nearly 85% of our respondents said they would be shopping for themselves on Black Friday—a common holiday practice known as self-gifting. According to our survey data, some of the most-wanted gifts that may be self-gifted this year include home electronics (HDTVs / Digital Cameras / Home Theater), Clothing & Shoes and Mobile Devices (Tablets / Smartphones).
Are Retail Employees Happy About the Shift?
Last year, there was a vocal, growing rebellion among retail employees and general consumers about extending Black Friday into Thanksgiving. A Target employee in California started an online petition on Change.org that attracted over 375,000 signatures, but was ultimately unsuccessful in persuading Target to move the 9 p.m. Thanksgiving Day opening time into Black Friday. Similar petitions were distributed for Walmart and other retailers, but none were successful in changing the minds of retailers.
Interestingly, Macy’s management distributed a poll among retail employees asking if they would be interested in arriving at the stores at 7:30 p.m. for the planned 8:00 p.m. opening.
However, it was likely more of a call for volunteers to work on Thanksgiving rather than a factor in deciding to open early. When asked about a lack of volunteers, Macy’s management replied:
“We will do our best to honor your preferences. Based on the needs of the business we may still need you to work an opening shift.”
This year, we reached out to a couple employees at major retailers (who wish to remain anonymous) to get their opinion on the matter. When we asked a female Macy’s employee in California about her company opening on Thanksgiving, she said:
“I think opening on Thanksgiving Day is weird, but Macy’s has to do what it can to keep up. For those that want to work on Thanksgiving, it’s ok. As long as they still get to have dinner with their families.”
More specific to her situation, she continued:
“For me, I don’t want to work on Thanksgiving Day. I celebrate Thanksgiving later in the day, so I don’t want to work. I prefer to work on Black Friday rather than Thanksgiving Day.”
We also spoke to a retail employee at a Columbia store location in New York. Columbia is a popular sportswear company that opens up at 10 p.m. on Thanksgiving night and stays open for 24 hours until 10 p.m. on Black Friday. When asked about the company’s position on making Thanksgiving Day optional for employees, she said:
“No, employees don’t have a choice. Sometimes managers have a little say, but for the most part, you get what you get.”
When asked how employees feel about working on Thanksgiving Day, she continued:
“Depending on the employee, some love the rush of working overnight. However, people that have family to spend Thanksgiving with don’t want to work. Last year, I missed my Thanksgiving dinner. Even though I didn’t have to be at work until 8:30 p.m, I had to go to bed at 2:00 p.m. that day and missed dinner. People don’t realize that you will be working all night.”
Up to this point in the year, there haven’t been any new petitions distributed to halt the practice of earlier store openings. It’s likely that many retail employees are more accepting of the fact that more stores will open on Thanksgiving to stay competitive.
What Are Your Plans on Turkey Day?
Regardless of your opinion on the early start on Thanksgiving, online shopping seems to be the happy medium for consumers who don’t want to trek out to stores on Thanksgiving night, but still want to take advantage of big savings. When we asked our respondents how many will be shopping only online this year, nearly half indicated that they would avoid brick & mortar stores completely in favor of online shopping. In addition, the most common response to their favorite aspect of online shopping was staying at home away from the crowds.
Safety also comes into play when choosing online shopping over retail locations. When we asked respondents if they would be concerned standing at the front of a line at a crowded store as the doors open on Black Friday, 58% responded in the affirmative, declaring that they would be worried about getting injured by crowds.
Of course, Ben’s Bargains can help you cut through all the Black Friday noise during November, especially if you prefer staying in the warmth of your home rather than venturing out to crowded stores.
Launching in early November, our Black Friday Hub Page will help you find the absolutely best deals this holiday season all through November as well as on Thanksgiving and Black Friday weekend. For your perusal, we will have:
- A list of the best online and in-store deals updated each day by our expert deal editors.
- Buyer’s guides to help you find the right gifts this year.
- Ad scans for anyone brave enough to venture out on Thanksgiving night.
- A series of awesome giveaways all month long!