There’s nothing like gathering loved ones around the table for the holidays, sharing a turkey dinner with all the fixings, finishing up with warm pumpkin pie, and then…rushing off to Wal-Mart? That’s what retailers are hoping their loved ones – American consumers – will be looking forward to this holiday season.
Over the years “Black Friday," the day when retailers traditionally open doors and drop prices to jump-start holiday shopping, has been systematically creeping into Thanksgiving Day, with earlier and earlier start times. Last year, Target stores opened at midnight, Wal-Mart at 10 p.m. and Toys R Us at 9 p.m. This year, both Wal-Mart and Toys R Us are will open at 8:00 p.m, and Target at 9.
"They want to open before the pumpkin pie is even digesting in your stomach on Thanksgiving Day. It’s just nuts," says KPCC business reporter Matt DeBord.
K-Mart is dispensing with Turkey Day altogether, scheduling a 6:00 a.m. opening on November 22nd. Retailers, who have been taking an economic hit due to the recession, hope that Black Thursday shoppers will spill some black ink onto their balance sheets. Die-hard bargain-hunters love the sport – and the slashed prices.
“It’s a bit of an arms race is what it is," says DeBord. "These big retailers, what they want do is they want to get to the consumers first. So they keep pushing it back."
The losers in this game of me-first? Store employees, who often have to miss their own Thanksgiving celebrations to prepare for the frenzy. Online petitions asking the stores to “give Thanksgiving back” to employees and their families have garnered hundreds of thousands of signatures.
“There have certainly been some folks in the press who’ve come out and said that Black Friday or Black Thursday now is a negative thing for this reason," Debord said. "There’s a psychological cost here, if you will. It undermines the overall value and enjoyment of the holiday that these workers can have, and it's unfair for the retailers to be putting the buck ahead of that sort of cultural value.”
Wal-Mart workers have targeted Black Friday for a national boycott and strike, gaining support online and through social networking. But it doesn’t look like Black Thursday is going anywhere – not this year anyway.
Matt DeBord, KPCC business reporter and writer of The DeBord Report blog