In 2016, Thanksgiving Shopping is Dead

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Shopping Holidays: holidays created specifically to be all about shopping. You don’t get much more #firstworld than that. Black Friday – the day after Thanksgiving – has been considered a major Shopping Holiday in the US since 2003, when the day was the biggest retail sales day of the entire year.

thanksgiving shopping is daed

Retailers are constantly trying to recreate lightning in a bottle. If you did $10k in sales on this day last year, then you ought to be able to do that, plus more, this year. In chasing that 2003 sales high, retailers not only worked to collectively turn Black Friday into one of the biggest shopping days of the year, they managed to turn the entire weekend into a shopping extravaganza. Now we have Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday. Nonprofits have even hopped on board with Giving Tuesday. (I’m officially proposing #StopSpendingSunday.)

When the recession hit in 2008, retailers were not content with letting Black Friday rest. They chose to combat the tightening purse strings by opening their doors (and giving Black Friday doorbusters a head start) earlier and earlier. By 2015, nearly all major retailers were opening their doors as early as 3pm on Thanksgiving. The thought was that maybe if people just got more time to spend more, they would. And maybe if you opened your doors earlier than your competitor, you would get more of the customers’ money.

Here’s what retailers learned in 2015:

  • Just because people have more time to spend doesn’t mean they spend more. There is, it would appear, a finite pie of money Americans are willing to spend the weekend after Thanksgiving, and it’s being increasingly spent on Cyber Monday.
  • People don’t like stores being open on Thanksgiving. 1 in 4 Americans is a retail worker. A store being open on Thanksgiving means, those 25% of people have to work, and it means their family doesn’t get to spend Thanksgiving with them. And as it turns out, Thanksgiving is one of the few sacrosanct holidays Americans want to use to hang out with their loved ones. And some of those people actually chose to boycott certain stores because they were open on Thanksgiving.
  • In the mid-2010’s, people no longer have to deal with the crowds of tired, crabby people in the cold early morning November air to get a cheap TV. Now we can get a cheap TV from the comfort of our warm couch online. So physical stores (and therefore being open on Thanksgiving) are now simply worth less in terms of blowout sales.

And so, in 2016, I am happy to report: we can officially declare that Thanksgiving has been saved from becoming a Shopping Holiday. Retailers are now focusing on making Black Friday an important in-store experience day. The type of day they can’t get online.

What’s Next for Retailers?

So what can retailers do to improve the Black Friday in-store experience? What tips and tricks can you recommend them?

Looking for Point of Sale software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Point of Sale software solutions.

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Cara Wood

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Cara Wood is a marketing associate at Capterra and a graduate of Mary Washington! When she's not hard at work at Capterra, she can be found horse-back riding, reading and just generally having a good time at life.

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