Published on November 15th, 2017
It’s go-time, people.
Aside from food, family, and football, businesses and consumers alike are preparing for one thing as Thanksgiving approaches -- sales.
Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, is widely accepted as the “busiest shopping day of the year.” It marks the official start of the holiday shopping season and helps thousands of retailers across the country get back “in the red” with profits.
However, with the advent of Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, and “doorbuster deals,” more and more retailers are expanding their sales beyond just Black Friday -- and not all consumers are happy about it.
In an effort to get a head start on the holiday rush, many big businesses are now opening their doors on Thanksgiving itself, but this consumerist push isn’t sitting well with all brands or buyers.
“No thanks, we’ll stay home.”
Continuing its groundbreaking #OptOutside campaign for the third year in a row, REI was one of the first retailers to take a stand and close its doors on Thanksgiving:
"We're doing our darndest to start a new tradition," shared REI Chief Creative Officer Ben Steele." We really want people thinking about the Friday after Thanksgiving differently."
And they’re not alone.
According to bestblackfriday.com, over 55 retailers have been vocal about their choices to stay closed on Thanksgiving.
Just check out this video from TJX, the parent company of Marshall’s, TJ Maxx, and Homegoods."Bring Back the Holidays", Facebook Thanksgiving | TJX from Marta Llop on Vimeo.
In between shots of smiling children and fully-stocked dining room tables, the video (more a PSA than a commercial) urges shoppers to “bring back the holidays.” (How’s that for a snazzy call-to-action?)
“Our stores are closed on Thanksgiving because the only thing that should be open is your family room."
In a profit-focused industry and season, TJX is taking a bold stand for family values with this message.
Paul Latham, Vice President for Membership and Marketing for Costco echoed that sentiment to the Huffington Post a few years ago.
"Our employees work especially hard during the holiday season…” “[W]e simply believe that they deserve the opportunity to spend Thanksgiving with their families….Nothing more complicated than that."
Out of all of the major retailers closing their doors next Thursday, the feeling clearly rings true across the board, but from a business perspective, are they making a mistake? Are they missing out on a huge sales opportunity?
Before we dive into that, here's the list of the retailers staying closed on Thanksgiving this year so far:
Academy Sports + Outdoors
BJ's Wholesale Club
Blain's Farm and Fleet
Cost Plus World Market
Crate and Barrel
Designer Shoe Warehouse
Half Price Books
JOANN Fabric and Craft Stores
Jos. A. Bank
La-Z-Boy (Corporately owned stores)
Music & Arts
Office Depot and OfficeMax
P.C. Richard & Son
Pier 1 Imports
Raymour & Flanigan Furniture
Sierra Trading Post
Sprint (Corporate- and dealer-owned stores)
Sur La Table
The Container Store
The Original Mattress Factory
So, What's the Point? Should You Close on Thanksgiving?
While the teams above are enjoying the holiday with their loved ones, stores like Walmart, Kmart, and Target are opening as early as possible (and according to a survey by Reuters, 38% of shoppers will likely be joining them at the checkout line.)
This may sound promising, but like most strategies, there are two sides to this coin.
Yes, open retailers can get a jump start on holiday rush before their closed competition, but they may also end up cannibalizing their own Black Friday efforts when people realize they don’t have to wait in line at midnight to get a deal.
On a more personal level, brands can also run the risk of hurting employee morale and also alienating a large segment of their buyers’ values.
In fact, a recent survey by BestBlackFriday found that 57.53% of respondents didn't like the idea of stores being open on Thanksgiving.
In 2013 this became extremely clear when hundreds of Walmart shoppers took to the company’s Facebook page to express their disapproval of it being open on Thanksgiving.
They argued the retailer was greedy for forcing employees to work on a family holiday, and that it was also supporting consumerism by tempting people away from their loved ones with sales. For a brand that markets heavily to working families, you can imagine that these sentiments reflected poorly on the brand.
While, of course, this depends on your audience, this is the main reason why staying closed on Thanksgiving works for many brands in today’s world.
The Lesson: Stay True to Your Brand (And Buyer's) Values
With the internet, consumers have an unlimited number of shopping options (whether it be for B2C holiday needs or general B2B).
If you are a brick and mortar business, loyal buyers (your ideal buyer personas), the ones who will consistently choose you over your competitors, don’t care about flashy low prices or Black Friday deals.
They care about your brand, the way you do business, and the values you stand for.
64% of consumers who have an established relationship with a brand cite shared values as the primary reason. When loyal customers make a purchase from your organization, it’s more than just an exchange of goods, it’s a personal sign of support for your brand and everything it does.
Judging by the praise and support brands like REI and TJF are getting from both their happy employees and buyers, it’s clear that they knew what really mattered to their buyer personas when they made this call.
Their audience cares about family and quality time. They don’t want to be tempted to go out and shop and they don’t want to support a brand that would ask them to.
The lesson here is know your buyer persona and stay true to your brand. When it comes to making a sensitive decision like staying open on a major holiday, ask yourself, what would my buyer do?