Ah, yes, Thanksgiving. A holiday filled with cranberry sauce, stuffing, full bellies, thankfulness, football, friends, and family. As per tradition, many embrace the commercialism of the holiday season that comes to a head at Black Friday. Whether you love to hate it or hate to love it, Black Friday will soon be upon us. The seemingly best deals all year long, the crazy lines, waking up early, and fighting for the last television set or Kitchen Aid mixer at Target. All good times.
We don’t mean to bash those who go Black Friday shopping (I do as well), but the holiday seems to be wearing on American culture. Starting a few years ago, many businesses like Sears, Target, and Walmart began their Black Friday deals on Thanksgiving night. The goal, from a business standpoint, was to be the first store to get customers in and to take business away from other stores.
Of course, this has also grown into a public relations problem for stores that are open Thanksgiving, as many have criticized these companies for taking away holiday and family time from employees. The backlash hasn’t stopped stores from operating on Thanksgiving, though, and each year, many are opening a little bit earlier than the year prior. This year, however, there seems to be a strong turn in the opposite direction as businesses take a definitive stance on being closed Thanksgiving.
The first large example this year was the Mall of America, the largest mall in the United States housed in Bloomington, MN. They’ve been open on Thanksgiving for the past four years, but this year they’re letting their employees have the day to spend time with loved ones. Surprisingly or not, this move has done wonders for their PR. Fans of the closure have taken to Twitter to show their support for the mall, and many are hoping for other businesses to follow suit. Many stores have made announcements that they will be closed on Thanksgiving, including other malls around the country and Office Depot.
By making this move, businesses are showing consumers that they have empathy for their employees and their customers. It shows they want everyone to have a relaxing holiday, and that consumerism can hold off for a day. Many are questioning whether the trend to not open on Thanksgiving is for these moral reasons or just simply that it isn’t profitable to be open. Either way, it was a great lesson in public relations and company reputation.
This move to keep Black Friday deals to just one day is growing, but even Black Friday itself is losing steam amongst some consumers. Last year, REI did a #OptOutside campaign, where they urged employees and consumers to do just that; go outside and live life to the fullest. It was a successful campaign for its target audience; people who are more apt to climb a mountain and be environmental than go shopping at 6 a.m. for the best deals. Even though they may have lost business on that one day, they gained immensely more by sticking to their values and starting a conversation on commercialism.
In due time, we’ll see if Black Friday keeps to the actual Friday after Thanksgiving, or if it will eventually fade away altogether. Our bet is it is here to stay, but like many marketing and PR trends, only time will tell. Have fun shopping, stay safe, and above all, have a great Thanksgiving!