The Grinch that stole Thanksgiving

November 15, 2013

Will in-store shopping values on Turkey Day win out over family values?

Where will people trot this Thanksgiving – to stores or to the dinner table?

For the first time, people will have many choices—including Kmart all day, Walmart at 6 p.m., and Target, Macy’s and others at 8 p.m.

The day will be a test of family values vs. shopping values.  Millions of Americans aiming to stretch their holiday budgets in a still-slow economy may feel they have no choice but to shop.  The same goes for millions of retail workers, most of whom The Lempert Report believes would rather be home with family and friends on a once-sacrosanct day.

This Thanksgiving will show us all how desperate for deals we are, and how soul-less our nation has become.  If retailers pull big traffic with a limited number of sale magnets guaranteed to be available, we will call them The Grinches That Stole Thanksgiving.  

Would that make Amazon the Biggest Grinch of all, because its effectiveness has led brick-and-mortar chains to creep up their Black Friday campaigns to the point they are now?  We’ll be disappointed, though not surprised, if consumers show up at stores in a big way on Thanksgiving.

Of course, we don’t expect retailers to change their nature—they sell.  They’ve seen how online sales ramp up the night of Thanksgiving.  They know this holiday season is short, Chanukah arrives early, and people want to save money.  So why not grab some share?  New research says retailers might not be wrong in this approach, though to us the emotional toll is high and we understand the sentiment of vocal consumers who express outrage.

According to Accenture, more than half of Millennials (55% of 18-24 year olds and 61% of 25-34 year olds) are likely to shop on Thanksgiving Day, vs. 31% of 45-59 year olds.  Overall, 38% of consumers intend to shop; of these shoppers, 41% will do so after 6 p.m.  Notably, 29% of 18-24 year olds say shopping on Thanksgiving “is about being part of the excitement” vs. just 4% of 45-59 year olds who share this opinion. 

A National Retail Federation survey, conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics, finds that 53.8% of Americans started their holiday shopping during October promotions.

James Russo, senior vp-global consumer insights at Nielsen, underscores a reason for the early start this year—“20% of consumers say they have no spare cash, and 68% say they still feel like we’re in a recession.”  Nielsen data rank food #4 on the list of gifts, trailing gift cards, technology products and toys.

We doubt the numbers will lie.  We just see the nation crossing an unfortunate line.