With the announcement that it will open its doors to shoppers at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day, Macy’s joined the growing ranks of retailers getting a jump on the traditional Black Friday onslaught. The 155-year-old chain is banking that its customers will embrace the opportunity to whip out their credits cards after tucking into the mashed potatoes.Macy’s is hardly alone. In the past few years, Target Corp., Wal-Mart and Toys R Us have similarly pushed the boundaries of holiday shopping. But the extended hours have drawn some backlash; according to USA Today, people commenting on Twitter called the trend everything from a shame to crazy.
A Facebook page called “Say No to Shopping on Thanksgiving” attracted more than 12,000 “likes” within days of Macy’s announcement, with the number jumping to more than 37,000 by the middle of last week.
Rutgers Today reached out to Carol Kaufman-Scarborough, a professor at Rutgers School of Business-Camden, to explain the context and ramifications of this so-called “holiday creep.” Winner of this year’s Warren I. Susman Award for Excellence in Teaching, Kaufman-Scarborough teaches classes in international marketing and global marketing strategies, as well as retailing and e-commerce. Her research interests include vulnerable consumers, macro-marketing and consumer homelessness.
Rutgers Today: Thanksgiving holds a special place in the pantheon of American holidays. When did stores begin to open on this most family oriented of days, and what factors are behind the phenomenon?
Carol Kaufman-Scarborough: In 2011, several retailers such as Target and Kohl’s opened at midnight, while others opened early in the morning, resulting in long lines overnight. Other retailers followed in 2012, some opening at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving evening. This year, in opening at that time Macy’s will open four hours earlier than it did last year.In thinking about these changes, it’s important to realize that the structure of this year’s shopping season is shorter than last. Thanksgiving 2012 fell on November 22, resulting in 31 full days of shopping before Christmas. This year, Thanksgiving is on November 28, which gives only 25 days and one fewer shopping weekend. Shoppers may be looking for ways to increase their opportunities to do holiday shopping. Certainly, retailers are looking for ways to provide more store hours for their customers.
Rutgers Today: Does the trend say anything to you about who we are as a society and where our values lie?
Carol Kaufman-Scarborough: The trend can reflect several values. One, that consumers need to stretch their spending power more than ever, and may take time after celebrating the holiday to shop at what they may view as a more reasonable hour to do so.
Others may feel that the practice should not be followed and does not conform to Thanksgiving traditions popular among families in being together in their homes.
However, some families indicate that shopping together is an enjoyable family tradition. Store openings on Thanksgiving evening may give families who have already gathered the opportunity to shop together and spend more time looking together for gifts for family members. Shopping with others may help in buying “the right” gifts and correct sizes, resulting in fewer returns.
Rutgers Today: Do you think the early opening will cause tension if Dad or Mom wants to head out early for a bargain on an iPhone while the festivities are still going on?
Carol Kaufman-Scarborough: Shoppers have many more options which many actually use, such as starting their shopping early at fall craft shows and bazaars, using layaway programs and ordering through online pre-holiday specials. People can also turn to gift cards, one of the most popular gifts, which are convenient to buy and appreciated by many recipients.
Breaking up the family gathering could lead to tension, but it may also lead to opportunities for shopping together, which people enjoy. And since retailers have given early notice of their planned opening times, there is opportunity to plan the family festivities around the times that stores are open.
Rutgers Today: If the move by Macy’s proves popular, what’s the next development you foresee along these lines?
Carol Kaufman-Scarborough: Cyber Monday occurs during workdays for many people. I’d expect to see additional cyber specials that occur at other times, perhaps on a weekend, giving shoppers the freedom to shop from home.