In case you have not yet noticed, the Christmas shopping season is underway. Retail stores have already begun to unfurl decorations and set out merchandise with holiday themes, hoping to get customers in the gift-giving (and money-spending) mood.
For decades, the retail industry traditionally targeted the day after Thanksgiving, now known as Black Friday, as the Christmas shopping season kickoff. Since 2002, Black Friday has been the busiest shopping day of the year, according to the website Money Crashers.
In 2002 and 2003, retailers such as Walmart, JC Penney and Target began offering Christmas sales in October, launching a new practice known as “Christmas creeping.” Today, according to the National Retail Federation, some 40 percent of U.S. consumers start their holiday shopping before Halloween.
According to Wikipedia, Christmas creeping “is a merchandising phenomenon in which merchants and retailers exploit the commercialized status of Christmas by introducing Christmas-themed merchandise or decorations before the traditional start of the holiday shopping season, which in the United States is the day after Thanksgiving.”
One of the more recent retail Christmas shopping trends has been to open doors on Thanksgiving Day. Macy’s department store opened its doors for the first time on Thanksgiving in 2013. Sears and others followed suit in 2014. “This holiday season is all about giving more to our members and because many like to start shopping well before Black Friday, we’re excited to open our doors early on Thanksgiving,” Leena Manjal, a Sears senior vice president, told CNBC in 2014.
Disrupting one of the country’s most revered family holidays wasn’t universally accepted. Online boycotts encouraged shoppers to avoid stores that break the sacred code. The creator of one boycott group, Boycott Black Thursday, said retail employees should be able to enjoy Thanksgiving at home.
“That’s really the ultimate goal we’re pushing for with this movement,” said Brian Rich.
This year, the “Black Thanksgiving” trend seems to have cooled off. Mall of America, the largest shopping mall in the nation, announced Oct. 5 that it will be closed on Thanksgiving. “We’re excited to give this day back to our employees so they can celebrate with their families,” said the mall’s senior vice president of marketing and business development, Jill Renslow.
The decision will allow most of the 1,200 people who work in the 520-plus stores inside the Bloomington, Minn., facility to stay home, go to church, eat turkey and watch football. It’s a shift from last year, when the Mall of America encouraged its stores to open at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.
Another U.S. retailer, Seattle-based Nordstrom, has been able to buck the Christmas creeping trend by not decorating its stores until Black Friday. Last year, it even posted signs in stores that said, “At Nordstrom, we won’t be decking our halls until Friday…” Nordstrom also remains closed on Thanksgiving.
Thanks, Nordstorm, for taking a stand against Christmas creeping. Kudos, too, to the Mall of America for not making its stores and their employees have to choose between work and family obligations.
It’s no exaggeration to say that consumerism has taken over the holiday season and any gesture to win back time for family is a gesture worth praising and emulating. Now it’s up to other retailers to follow suit.