Open on Thanksgiving? Profit versus PR

open on thanksgiving - ronn torossian

Should businesses handle the crowds for Black Friday, or allow its workers to remain home with family?

“Should” you be open on Thanksgiving? There are many different thoughts on this great holiday debate.

Two years ago the first retail businesses began encroaching on the national Thanksgiving holiday. Coming at the end of the Great Recession, the general public cringed, but then sort of shrugged. They understood the appeal. And for many, the idea of hitting the mall early instead of watching your relatives pass out on the couch in a tryptophan coma sounded pretty awesome.

Big brands like Toys R Us joined the list of those opening “early” on Thanksgiving. That list includes such national chains at Kohl’s, Macy’s, JC Penney, and Sears. Kmart tops them all, actually opening its doors at 6 AM ON THANKSGIVING DAY. While some savvy shoppers are acclaiming this trend, rejoicing in one more day of Black Friday madness, others have made staying closed a major point of their PR campaigns.

Retailers such as Jo-Ann Fabrics, Home Depot, Lowes, and Costco have sworn to stay shuttered on Thanksgiving. In fact, Costco actually upped the PR ante, saying they chose to do so because their employees “deserve” the chance to stay home and celebrate with their families.

Consider the gauntlet officially thrown down. There can be no way for competitors such as Sams Club to see that. It’s a direct challenge. “We are more American than you because we actually care about our employees.”

How will the public view that message, and how will the competition respond? Across the board, the big mall chain stores, particularly the anchor stores like Sears, Macy’s, and Penny’s, might stand to lose a lot if they defy the competition and remained closed. We say “might” because that’s just conjecture. No one really knows how much might be lost or left on the table. And given the state of the economy where department store retail is concerned, none of these stores are prepared to find out the hard way.

On the flip side, stores such as Jo-Ann’s, which markets to a demographic that tends to hold more entrenched reverence for family and holiday functions, stand to gain by reinforcing this commitment to family time. Even if they were open, everyone who loves to decorate is at home, enjoying their holiday decorations with their families. Will they show up afterward for the massive markdowns? Absolutely, but there’s no reason to have it, if you don’t take the time to enjoy it.

Bottom line, to determine where to land on this scale between PR and profit, you need to get inside the heads of your customers. Understand what makes them tick, and you will learn whether or not to turn the lights on.

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