How Black Friday bullied its way into Thanksgiving

Shoppers have only themselves to blame for earlier sale times at Wal-Mart and Target.

By Jason Notte Nov 13, 2012 4:11PM

Why do they still call it Black Friday when more obsessed holiday shoppers are hitting stores on Thanksgiving Day? Because Black "Can't I Just Finish My Thanksgiving Pie In Peace?" takes up way too much space.


Wal-Mart (WMT) launched the latest strike in its war on Thanksgiving last month, when it announced that it would open at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving evening to customers forming in-store lines for its most coveted discount products. For those who prize Thanksgiving traditions like dessert, digestion and tryptophan-induced slumber, that's a full two hours earlier than the store's 10 p.m. start last year.

Ever the joiner, Toys R Us decided 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving would be a great time to open its doors for deals as well. What does this mean for retailers? Other than lines full of disgruntled folks in Tom Brady and Tim Tebow jerseys missing the Thanksgiving late game between the New England Patriots and the New York Jets, it'll be a holiday feast greater than anything its customers will be missing the last course of.


The top brass at Target (TGT) didn't push that retailer's doorbuster start time from midnight last year to 9 p.m. this year just for personal amusement. According to the National Retail Federation, 28.7 million people did their Black Friday shopping on Thanksgiving Day last year. That's still less than a third of the roughly 86 million shoppers who took to stores on Black Friday itself, but it's still up from the 22 million who took time from their turkey or Tofurkey dinners to go bargain hunting on Thanksgiving 2010.Image: Man Taking Money Out of Wallet- NULL/Corbis


They didn't have to bundle up and huddle outside of big-box stores to do so, either. Market research firm ComScore (SCOR) found that online spending on Thanksgiving Day rose 18% in 2011 to $479 million from $407 million a year earlier. Sure, lots of that traffic was Amazon shoppers who didn't really have a brick-and-mortar option, but ComScore's Thanksgiving and Black Friday Top Five also included Wal-Mart, Best Buy and Target, who wooed overstuffed Thanksgiving shoppers with deals they could access from devices balanced on their swollen stomachs.


But do retailers' Thanksgiving intrusions really increase sales, or just pull them from some softer part of the Black Friday weekend schedule? The NRF sees an overall gain, with its count of store traffic from Thanksgiving through the end of Black Friday weekend rising from 212 million shoppers in 2010 to 226 million last year. The nearly 7 million more people in stores on Thanksgiving helped, but about the same number joined the ranks for the rest of the stretch.


They didn't exactly shy away from online orders for the rest of the holiday season either. ComScore saw a 16% increase on Thanksgiving weekend overall in 2011, including a 26% spike in Black Friday shopping. While that 18% bump in Thanksgiving Day spending is impressive, it still trails both the growth and haul of Cyber Monday (up 22% in 2011 to $1.25 billion) and Green Monday (up 19% to $1.13 billion) and doesn't come close to the $1.1 billion spent on Free Shipping Day.


As long as retailers are taking increasingly larger bites of holiday spending by starting their Black Friday sales earlier on Thanksgiving night, consumers will continue to be tempted into taking that last cup of pudding or slice of pumpkin pie to go.


41Comments
Nov 14, 2012 10:45AM
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Already the media hype is starting to support "Black Friday" and no doubt the headlines will scream how this year's sales set all time records etc. even though it will be nothing but lies to give the American public a false sense of optimism so they will spend money they don't have.  Of course the media and various other research companies will be quick to say how much was sold but there will be no mention of how much is returned in January once consumers realize they can't afford all the crap they bought.  Here is a novel idea...whatever you were going to spend for Christmas on presents, divide that number in half and give 25% to the charity of your choice and put the other 25% in your savings account.  I also strongly encourage buying American made products and screw China! 

Nov 13, 2012 10:55PM
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Start the shopping with all the black Friday prices the first week of November.  Then by Thanksgiving, most people will be finished and they can enjoy the holiday.  
Nov 13, 2012 9:08PM
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Noone is putting a gun to anyones head and making them shop!!!! The phrase is it's your choice!!! If you choose to go then great; if not then great!!!! Sometimes people want somehing to do besides watching others sleeping or watching tv and who in the world eats Thanksgiving dinner at 8pm?!!
Nov 13, 2012 8:36PM
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I DON'T WANT TO GET KILL JUST TO SAVE SOME BUCK .... THINK ABOUT IT !!!!!!!!!!!!!

      ( people get hurt or kill every blackfriday )

Nov 13, 2012 8:32PM
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Of all the holidays, including Christmas, this was THE family holiday. Now because of GREED and ignorance another big holiday is probably going down the tubes. If people could just control themselves and not shop for whatever few bargains, it would go a long way to everybody just having a nice day together.

 

Nov 13, 2012 8:14PM
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We are trained monkeys, rats, mice or some kind of animal. Society will never learn. And retailers will never care because money and stock holders come first. If the company I work part time for wanted to open on Thanksgiving Day they would be doing it without me. But I don't absolutely need my job. Another fact the retailer has on the worker, most need their job so there you go. Work or get replaced. Retailers have the consumer and employee trained.
Nov 13, 2012 8:11PM
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I worked for a bank for years in the call center. They are opened and staffed 24 hours a day 365 days a year. People act surprised that others work on holidays.. Who do you think is working at the 7-11 where you run buy your paper or ice you forgot. If your going to grandmas house and you need gas who is running the station. The airport where your flying from. We little people have been working these days most of our working life. The TV your watching the parade on Thanksgiving morning etc. Stop complaining if you don't want to shop don't it is very simple.
Nov 13, 2012 7:58PM
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There isn't anything that important to shop for.........not to ruin the holiday over anyway.
Nov 13, 2012 7:49PM
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I think whatever kind of shopping you think you need to do on Thanksgiving can wait. With the economy the way it is, the stores aren't gonna' run out of "stuff".  The one holiday we had left that had to do just with family and not about "how much money can you spend?' and the merchants are trying to jam that up too. I think they can jam it, just sayin'.

Nov 13, 2012 7:45PM
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Here is a thought if you dont want to work the Holidays quit.  If you cant find another job maybe you should have worked a little harder in High School and actually got into a college.  Dont be complaining because the only job you can get is Walmart.  Also if made in the USA products would be a little better made then maybe people would start buying items made in the USA.
Nov 13, 2012 7:39PM
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I will not be going to Wal Mart on Thanksgiving night or on Black Friday either.  I have better things to do than fight a crowd of morons obsessed with buying a bunch of merchandise and maxing out their credit cards, I really feel sorry for the employees who have to give up their holiday to wait on these self-centered fools.
Nov 13, 2012 7:34PM
Nov 13, 2012 7:26PM
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Greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right, greed works.

Gordon Gekko

 

Nov 13, 2012 7:23PM
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What is this ..."The consumers are demanding this"?   Most of the people I know would rather have a nice day with friends and family and worry about shopping the next day.   Also, a two year old 'demands' things and we just tell them NO.   Retailers are just out to get the consumers money and lure them with bait.   There are plenty of simple minded people that just follow the pied piper merchant with no thoughts of their own.   This whole pushing Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas in to one big, long shopping spree is selfish and self serving.  Very materialistic and greedy.   I for one, will not be in the stores on Thanksgiving weekend and will be sitting back enjoying my family and down time.  Shopping can wait for another day.


Nov 13, 2012 7:17PM
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I think it's irresponsible to blame retailers for this.  They are in business to make money, and are simply taking advantage of the opportunity given to them by people whose spending is out of control.  The problem lies with a public who really believes they must have the latest and greatest of everything, whether they can afford it or not.  People who believe every TV or internet ad they see and simply can't live without that product are mentally ill, just like hoarders, over eaters, alcoholics, uncontrolled gamblers, or anyone else with obsessive/compulsive problems.  I personally have NEVER bought a product or service because of a TV, magazine, or internet ad, or a phone solicitation.  I control my spending impulses and research and give serious thought to large or small purchases.  For too many people, shopping is recreation, and they have absolutely no restraint or control over what or why they buy things.  Then they go bankrupt and we all pay for it.
Nov 13, 2012 7:04PM
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Why not just cancel all the few holidays left in the USA. Just make it a regular
day where everyone works. consumers want it that way so why not.

Nov 13, 2012 6:41PM
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Everyone in the Family Gets together we have a nice dinner together & Fun together!  No one in the Family shops at Wallmart or Target & have not been in either one in at least 10 years because someone will probably Mug you in the parking lot day or night!  Our motto is stay home stay safe & enjoy the Holliday & have fun being together!
Nov 13, 2012 6:23PM
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I am in retail.....  Retailers have killed most of our family Holidays.    I know things will never change, but I don't have to like it!
Nov 13, 2012 6:23PM
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 Hi, I work Retail and Thanksgiving and Christmas are just another day, I knew what I was getting into when I took the job, no is forcing me to work there, I am Grateful I have a good full time job with benefits and I dont have to worry about getting layed off like factory workers do !
Nov 13, 2012 5:55PM
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First they got past Thanksgiving by calling it the Holidays, next they will get past Halloween by calling it the Seasons,  Their ultimate goal is to start the Christmas season the day after New Years. I think the retailers should close on Thanksgiving and give much thanks to the fact that there is a Christmas and the concept of a Christmas present.
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