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Pros and cons: Should retailers stay open on Thanksgiving?

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For some holiday shoppers, bargain hunting is a competition and Black Friday is the Super Bowl. All the preparation throughout the year goes into a few frenzied hours that determine winners and losers: Did you get that 50" TV you were aiming for, or did you camp out all night only to be caught in the stampede and end up empty-handed?

Meanwhile, that competition has come increasingly early each year. Stores began to open earlier and earlier on Black Friday, so it was inevitable that some stores would open on Thanksgiving and cater to those who would rather shop than eat turkey and watch football. Now, there seems to be a split in philosophy, with some retailers opening on Thanksgiving Day with special sales while others make a great public display of being closed on Thanksgiving out of respect for their employees.

Consider the pros and cons of stores staying open on Thanksgiving for both shoppers and retailers. First, let's look at the pros.

  • More/Earlier Sales – If you live for holiday bargain hunting, you have more sale opportunities to score that perfect bargain. From the retailers' perspective, it provides the opportunity for stronger sales and income numbers — assuming that bargains are readily available and properly priced. If done correctly, a Thanksgiving opening can generate momentum that, with clever planning, can be sustained through the entire holiday shopping season.
  • Competitive Advantage – As a retailer, if your competitors are not open on Thanksgiving, you are gaining multiple advantages. You get first crack at serving the Thanksgiving/Black Friday bargain hunters, and are likely to reduce the traffic at your competitor's opening as a result. Increasing sales is one thing, but taking sales away from your competition is another.

How about some cons? There are a few.

  • Employee Unrest – Your customers may be happy to see you open on Thanksgiving, but the majority of your employees probably are not — especially if you are opening early enough in the day that your employees cannot enjoy a traditional Thanksgiving dinner with their families.
  • Sale Fatigue – Too much of a good thing can actually be a bad thing. Retailers can end up diluting the effect by running too many special sales and staying open too long. Customers may become confused and miss the best sales, deciding that a different retailer provides a better experience.
  • Bad Press/Image Problems – Does your customer base appreciate you being open on Thanksgiving, or do they simply feel obligated to participate in Thanksgiving sales when they would rather be home with their families? You may still have a crowd on Thanksgiving but suffer repercussions later. If your competition is closed on Thanksgiving while you are open, expect a press release with a veiled (or even direct) shot at you claiming that you don't value your employees' family time.

If you want to join in on the Thanksgiving fun, several websites are available that keep track of the latest Thanksgiving and Black Friday openings so you can plan your shopping campaign. (Save yourself potential embarrassment and make sure you are looking at a 2015 listing).

Your opinion on whether retailers should stay open depends on two factors: whether or not you enjoy the Black Friday/Thanksgiving shopping holiday and whether or not you have to work that day. If you do end up working on Thanksgiving, try to look on the bright side. You will be bringing great bargains to a grateful public, and you can still have Thanksgiving dinner, but will also have an excuse to leave before the inevitable family squabble.

So, what do you think?

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