In this country, the day after Thanksgiving is often regarded as the beginning of the Christmas shopping season. When I was growing up, the department store Thanksgiving Day parades that always included Santa at the end marked the official start of said season. Back then, no store wanted to be accused of starting Christmas season advertising before then. Obviously today, that code of etiquette is very quaint. I challenge you to go into any mall in early November and not see Christmas decorations. Normally, stores decorate during the first week of November with only the merchandizing of Halloween preventing them from appearing even earlier.
But very recently there has been a much more important issue than early holiday decorations.
Black Friday sort of snowballed into an unofficial holiday. The day after Thanksgiving was always the start of the shopping season, but smart merchants decided to capitalize on that by offering "door busters"--a few insane deals that only a few customers could get but would result in a frenzy of shopping. This meant that customers would line up in front of their stores hours earlier for these deals. This phenomenon caught on across the country.
For years, most retailers would start this practice around 6am the day of Black Friday. But in the bid to be first, each year a major chain would open just a little earlier, until midnight was the norm. Then, in 2011, for the first time, Walmart began their Black Friday sales on the actual Thanksgiving Day. Walmart, never known to be a bastion of worker care, started at 10pm that day. There were outcries, but sure enough, others followed suit. Last year, Walmart moved it back to 8 p.m. and their competitors, like Kmart, Sears, and Toys "R" Us, opened around the same time on Thanksgiving Day.
And here we are in 2013, with most stores starting their Black Friday sales this afternoon or evening. Kmart, in fact, started at 6am this morning!! I have no doubt that Thanksgiving will be replaced by "Black Thursday", which is quickly becoming the norm. What this means is that merchant's employees are going to be slammed with customers on the one day meant to be with their families. This is not to mention the millions of people who are forgoing time with their families to take part in the traditional shopping frenzy.
The quaint notion that we have a day with our families and then shopping the next day is gone. The genie will never go back into the bottle--we cannot expect that stores in these fiercely economic competitive times to simply close their doors and wait until 6am Black Friday when all others have started. This holiday happened by accident--it was a day when most people had off for shopping and markets offered great deals, so it snowballed into something huge. Black Friday is now threatening to overtake a great American holiday set aside for giving thanks. But there is a solution I'd like to propose.
Let's agree to take Thanksgiving out of the equation entirely. I propose we move Black Friday to the Friday BEFORE Thanksgiving. Let's make Black Friday the official kickoff to the shopping season. The holiday decorations battle we already lost and conceded years ago... but now America's obsession with great bargains is threatening Thanksgiving itself and hurting workers, customers, and their families. So let's have a day where we can celebrate American capitalism, give the stores the boost they need, customers the deals they want, and workers the overtime they deserve but not have it cut into the Thanksgiving holiday.
How could this be done? Congress could declare the Friday before Thanksgiving "Black Friday". Ideally, they would give federal employees the day off, and I expect eventually the non-retail private sector would eventually follow suit. Even if the day isn't off, (and that is probably unlikely given that Election Day is more important and that day isn't off), just the formal declaration would take any weirdness of starting a week earlier and put all the major chains on the same page. The prospect of starting the shopping season one week earlier is something I'm certain they would JUMP at.
Sure, there will still be shopping the day after Thanksgiving, but the frenzy and craziness that threatens to consume Thanksgiving would have passed in the previous week.
Folks, I'm just brainstorming here. I do think its an idea worth considering. I'm curious to know what you think. Please leave a comment, or write your own solution.
Thank you, and Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!!