More Stores Open on Thanksgiving (But Most Should Avoid Shopping This Weekend)

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Nov. 28 2013 10:30 AM

More Stores Open on Thanksgiving (But Most Should Avoid Shopping This Weekend)

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People shop at a Target on Thanksgiving night November 22, 2012

Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Retailers are getting desperate. With six fewer shopping days this year than in 2012, stores are trying to make up for lost time and for many the answer has been to open on Thanksgiving for the first time ever. That means the long-discussed “creep” into Thanksgiving is a thing of the past as for many retailers the creep has turned into a full blown invasion. For many, Black Friday now starts on Thanksgiving itself. And for some, as early as 6 a.m. After Macy’s said it would end a 155-year-old tradition and open on Thanksgiving, a slew of other retailers followed suit, including Kohl’s and J.C. Penney, reports Reuters. Others are opening on Thanksgiving, but later in the day, including Toys R Us and Wal-Mart.

The move has created lots of backlash online but, so far at least, retailers aren’t seeing that translate into fewer sales. Nearly 33 million people will go shopping on Thanksgiving, according to the National Retail federation. That’s a fraction of the 97 million people who will go to the stores on Black Friday but still enough to make it worthwhile for retailers. Whether the “discount frenzy” is a boost to the company’s bottom line is open to debate, notes USA Today. Some companies acknowledge promotions hurt their margins, while experts say the earlier shopping times simply gets consumers to spread out their purchases, not to actually spend more.

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In three states though, the whole issue is moot and retail workers don’t have to worry about being forced to work on Thanksgiving Day. Rhode Island, Maine and Massachusetts have so-called “blue laws” that prohibit large supermarkets, big box stores and department stores from opening on Turkey Day, reports the Associated Press.  

What about shoppers? Turns out, when looking at the fine print, the deals may not be that great in the first place. Writing in Forbes, Michael Levin calls Black Friday “the fool’s shopping day.” Sure, there are a few eye-popping deals like $50 TVs but those willing to camp out snap those up in a heartbeat. The other discounts really aren’t that great. “On Black Friday, retailers have virtually no incentive to deeply discount merchandise because consumer demand already exists,” writes Levin. Instead, shoppers may be better off waiting until mid-December when retailers could end up offering even steeper discounts.

That doesn’t mean that those willing to stand in the freezing cold for hours can’t get great deals. The Cleveland Plain Dealer’s Janet Cho writes an amusing account of her experience covering black Fridays throughout the years and recounts the story of one man who stood in line for 18 hours outside Best Buy. Was it worth it? He “scored three laptops, a wireless printer, a Flip Video camera, a Fable III video game for Xbox 360 and a Smallville DVD, all for just over $1,077,” writes Cho.

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the "Today's Papers" column from 2006 to 2009. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoliti.

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