US Thanksgiving Day shopping: retailer sales trump tradition

Tue Nov 20, 2012 12:59am EST
 
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By Nivedita Bhattacharjee

Nov 19 (Reuters) - Whether U.S. shoppers and workers like or loathe the encroachment of the holiday shopping season into Thanksgiving Day, one thing is for certain - the trend is not going away.

Even as stores fight charges of spreading holiday creep instead of cheer, retailers are making money out of moving the start of the holiday shopping season from "Black Friday" -- the day after Thanksgiving -- into Thanksgiving night, or even the Day itself.

"Not everybody's going to watch 12 hours of football on Thanksgiving Day. Most people, after 20 minutes of sitting at the dinner table, are ready to get out and do something. Why not cater to the people who are into the sport of shopping?" said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst for market research firm NPD.

Retailers like Target Corp, Sears Holdings Corp and Toys R Us Inc have joined Wal-Mart and Gap Inc in staying open on what is a national holiday. Traditionally, stores had waited until Black Friday to make their big push.

There is mounting pressure from Wall Street as well.

"From an investor's standpoint if a retailer is not putting (in) extra hours while competitors are extending them, it would make me wonder how much they can participate in the race for the consumer dollar," said Ken Hemauer, a senior portfolio manager at Robert W. Baird & Co based in Milwaukee.

Between sales, profits and Wall Street expectations, not many think petitions like the one on change.org, asking Target to "save Thanksgiving" by staying shut that day will succeed. The petition had 355,570 supporters at last count.

And not everyone is complaining. A recent survey by the consulting firm Deloitte showed 23 percent plan to shop in stores on Thanksgiving Day - up from 17 percent in last year's survey.   Continued...