In 1863 Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation setting aside the last Thursday of November as a national day of thanks. This morning Walmart (WMT) issued a press release that marked the end of Thanksgiving as we know it. The holiday has been replaced by a nationwide bargain bonanza. While retailers like Macy's (M), Target (TGT) and Kmart (SHLD) had already declared their stores open for business on what was once Thanksgiving, Walmart upped the ante by eliminating the word "Thursday" entirely.
"Black Friday is our day - our Super Bowl," declared Walmart's US president Bill Simon. "We’re excited to give our customers an incredible Black Friday with shopping hours that will allow them to take advantage of great prices on Thanksgiving night and all weekend long." If you can give people Black Friday deals a day early, "Thursday" as a concept loses all meaning. What was Thanksgiving is now Black Friday Eve.
Retailers have been quietly violating the line between Thursday vacation and Black Friday for years. As Matt Nesto points out in the attached video, more than 35 million Americans went shopping on Thanksgiving last year according to the National Retail Federation. There are only 240 million people over 18 in the entire country. If more than 15% us are going to be shopping anyway it hardly seems fair to be mad at Walmart for wanting a piece of the action.
Between the elimination of Thanksgiving and creation of Cyber Monday (supposedly the biggest online shopping day of the year), the entire last week of November is being redefined. Brad Wilson of BradsDeals.com told USA Today that Black Friday has morphed into a "six-day weekend" of shopping. He's actually understating it. In the online world days and dates lose all meaning. Amazon.com (AMZN) never closes. Why should anyone else?
For the truly outraged there is always the option of staying home. No matter what Bill Simon or Brad Wilson say you don't have to go to Walmart on Black Friday Eve (nee "Thanksgiving"). It is possible to ignore the rush and spend some quality time watching the Dallas Cowboys with your crazy in-laws. The death of Thanksgiving is the birth of choice. With stores open and offices closed Americans are officially free to do whatever they want on the fourth Thursday of every November.
See you at the mall.
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- Society & Culture