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Thanksgiving Versus Thankstaking: How to Handle Black Friday

The surveys are in, and the numbers have been tallied: This Thanksgiving, it’s predicted that more stores will be open; they will open earlier; and they’ll host more shoppers than ever before.

Retailers are eager to squeeze every hour out of an especially short holiday shopping season – this year, it’s six days shorter than normal. Retailers are also eager to one-up each other; 2012’s midnight store openings are being beaten this year by opening times of 8 p.m., 6 p.m., and even 6 a.m. Thanksgiving Day.

For the first time in history, consumers are planning to do most of their shopping online. So brick-and-mortar stores – where shoppers make spontaneous purchases and spend more cash – are battling for every chance to create sales opportunities.

Kmart has been open on Thanksgiving evening for years, and for some companies, it’s a smart move. You’ll be on the leading edge of a new shopping trend, which creates buzz. You’ll earn extra open hours in a short selling season. You can groom brand identity – for example, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade has been part of many families’ holiday traditions for decades, having been televised nationally since 1952. By opening at 8 p.m. that day, Macy’s stores can bring that brand equity full-circle with many of their loyal clients.

The cons are pretty clear, too. Companies that open on Thanksgiving Day may anger their employees, incite negative public opinion, and potentially could lose Black Friday shoppers by false-starting on Thursday.

Regardless, it’s likely this trend will continue. With the Wednesday before Thanksgiving being a normal shopping day and Christmas Day itself being too late for gift shopping, the industry has only one reserve to dig into: Thanksgiving Day. What it comes down to is not if your company is open then, but how it’s open. If you choose to offer Thanksgiving Day hours, follow these principles to help ensure a positive experience:

Never force your employees to work Thanksgiving or Christmas. When dealing with a federal holiday that celebrates abundance, safety and thankfulness, your employees should never fear losing their job if they prefer spending the day with family. Most companies can fill holiday shifts by asking for employee volunteers and providing wage and perk incentives.

Think about PR damages. Especially as it concerns the above point. Forcing employees to work under threat of being fired is the surest way to create a PR nightmare for your company – a nightmare that can be compounded by social media. Also beware you may alienate customers who hold Thanksgiving sacred. If your clientele is especially conservative or traditional, hold your opening until Friday morning.

• Weigh the real cost-to-benefit ratios. Being open on Black Friday is a no-brainer – that one day can make up a large percentage of holiday receipts. But being open for a few hours on Thanksgiving Day actually could end up costing you more in security, employee overtime, overhead and PR backlash than you make in sales.

• Be true to yourself. Dig deep into your company philosophy. Look at your target demographics. Study last year’s sales numbers. Don’t just follow the open-on-Thanksgiving trend because you’re trying to be competitive. Do it only if it makes sense to who you are as a company, to your loyal customers and to your ledgers.

So, for retail stores, local business owners, CEOs, marketing departments, and restaurant and service industries, the question really isn’t, “Should we be open on Thanksgiving Day?” Instead, the question to ask is, “If we’re open Thanksgiving Day, how can we best serve our customers, our employees, our traditions and our bottom line?”

About the author
Author picture, Jason Bodin
Jason Bodin
Jason Bodin has been the communications pulse for a number of organizations, including Paycom, where he serves as director of public relations and corporate communications. He helped launch Paycom’s blog, webinar platform and social media channels. He aided in the development of Paycom’s tool to assist organizations in complying with the Affordable Care Act, one of the largest changes in health care the country has seen. A graduate of the University of Oklahoma, Bodin previously worked for ESPN and Fox Sports. In his free time, he enjoys adventuring with his family, reading and strengthening his business acumen.