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.

Nov 13, 2012 5:51PM

So what else is new?  Corporations ( a Romney favorite) want to destroy any family time together for the greed of the owners.  This doesn’t mean the average stock holders, but the actually owner who do not give a sh*t about people.  Wal-Mart real owner’s fortunes rise and fall (by billions) on enslaving people to the clock.  Wake up people! The billionaires don give a sh*t about you or your family.  It’s all about how to get you to work for the lowest wages and beg for benefits (which turn into government benefits cause you earn such sh*t pay) while they live off from your sweat and tears.  All they want is your money!  They could care less about your family or the time together.  They want a slave economy and by shopping you are helping them make it.  Slavery is now the new economics.  Work for the master or you lose your job.  We need a national movement, but people are still too dumb to see the connection between corporate greed and the average person saving a few cents. 

Nov 13, 2012 5:49PM

Why make such a big deal over Black Friday ? I just ignore it and I seem none the worse for it.....


Nov 13, 2012 5:36PM
if a everyone just stayed home, they wouldn't open but NOOOO....every jackhole has to be out going crazy so every year more and more places open and there goes Thanksgiving.
Nov 13, 2012 5:20PM
Sleep > Black Friday early morning deals
Nov 13, 2012 5:15PM

X-mass is next 24-7 Wal-Mart. In Europe the people know how to relax on a holiday. All shops are closed to give employees family time.

Nov 13, 2012 5:10PM
The usa is going down,down! Buy more china made junk!
Nov 13, 2012 5:07PM

When this fiscal cliff is settled in the next couple of weeks the markets will zoom.It wil go

past 13,000 in a minute and past 14,000 soon.

Nov 13, 2012 4:43PM
Yaaaa! A REAL article! If everyone in America asked for and accepted nothing LESS than a fully made in America item- even it was pre-owned, THAT would be a holiday season of recognition. We won't though. The idea of buying frenzies are as ingrained in some of us as voting Republican even when the candidate is a shyster. The best thing we can ALL do to the big boxes is- AVOID THEM. Is it really that hard? The salespeople are getting $8 or less an hour for not enough hours of work to cover the fuel cost to get there. The idea of loading up a cart full of foreign made trash items is a blow to American stability. Do you really think you need a foreign-made i-Phone or laptop or i-Pad or toys, games, clothes, etc? Don't you already have those? Go check out the landfills, it's cheaper and there's more variety.

Let's ALL ask Congress to cooperate and DO THEIR JOB or don barrels and leave the country!!!

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