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 5:15PM

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 5:36PM
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 5:10PM
The usa is going down,down! Buy more china made junk!
Nov 13, 2012 5:55PM
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.
Nov 13, 2012 6:23PM
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 5:20PM
Sleep > Black Friday early morning deals
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 7:39PM
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 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!!!

Nov 13, 2012 7:23PM
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 6:41PM
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 7:49PM

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 7:58PM
There isn't anything that important to shop for.........not to ruin the holiday over anyway.
Nov 13, 2012 7:17PM
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 7:34PM
Nov 13, 2012 6:23PM
 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 7:26PM

Greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right, greed works.

Gordon Gekko


Nov 13, 2012 8:11PM
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 8:32PM

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
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.
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