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Should Retail Stores Be Open On Thanksgiving Day?

Retailers Seek Customers After First Decline In Black Friday Shopping Since 2009
Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Every year there seems to be a groundswell of conversation about those evil greedy corporations just out for a quick buck at the expense of their employees and their families. The poor store clerk forced to endure the wrath of rude ungrateful shoppers and overbearing managers while their family members are enjoying tasty leftovers and watching college football. Oh, the unfairness. There outta be a law.

Are Those Corporations Really Greedy?

What’s in it for the corporations to be open on Thanksgiving? I guess the obvious short answer is “big bucks.” But is that really true? What exactly is it that brings shoppers out in droves? Big savings — or at least the perception of big savings to the customer on many popular products.

What many shoppers don’t realize is that you can’t just bring a product into your store and put a sale tag on it. That’s illegal. That product must have sold at the regular retail price before you can advertise and sell it at a reduced price.

Volume Driven Businesses

Large retail stores are volume driven businesses. By that I mean that they rely on large numbers of customers in order to make a profit. So a combination of large volume buying and lots of customers means working twice has hard to make the same or a little more in profit.

Big discounts on selected items are not usually profitable to the store. These are known as “loss leaders.” They bring customers in and the store hopes that while in the store you will also purchase some non-sale or higher margin items during your shopping trip. The trick is to offer such amazing offers that people will literally storm the store to make sure they get the low priced “loss leader.”

Price Driven Businesses

The main street downtown business is a price driven business. It’s rare that a downtown store will generate the volume of customers to compete price for price with the big box stores. The downtown store still has to buy smart but in most cases they will sell a level of quality that is above what the big box retailers offer.

Main Street holiday advertising will stress quality and service while the big box store lives or dies on price alone. The two do not solicit the same customers. Volume shoppers make decisions based on price while price shoppers make decisions based on emotion and quality.

Who Works on Thanksgiving?

I have worked a few holidays over the years, not by force, but by choice. I could take the day off or work it for double time. In most cases I worked to add a little more Christmas cash to the family coffers. In some cases other employees asked me to work for them. The point is that there are advantages to the employee to work those days and many people do for their own individual reasons.

Where would we be without police and fire on holidays? Pilots, and airport workers, snowplow drivers, restaurants, convenience stores, grocery stores, all are in operation at least part of the day. Gas stations are usually open along with the fine folks that keep our electricity, gas and water working without a problem.

Some Final Thoughts

Isn’t it also true that the holiday shopper is forgoing family time to make sure they get the deal on the big screen TV or the dual temperature crock-pot? I guess family time is only important up to a point. Dollars or deals often outweigh those precious Hallmark moments around the dinner table. If you sell it they will come is the commercial sound of the season. Welcome to the feeding frenzy. Will you be in line on Thanksgiving eve?

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