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Retailers taking their cues from you

Thursday, November 28, 2013
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Annoyed that Black Friday has seeped into Thanksgiving Thursday, with more and more retailers kicking off holiday sales before the leftover turkey and trimmings have been put away? Want someone to blame?

Just look in the mirror.

As many as 38 percent of us are likely to hit the stores on Thanksgiving day or evening, the consulting firm Accenture says in its annual holiday shopping outlook.

In a separate poll, the National Retail Federation says some 140 million people could be out shopping over the Thursday-to-Sunday start to the 2013 holiday sales season, with nearly a quarter — 33 million — saying they’ll likely be in the stores on Thanksgiving.

What’s the draw? The “doorbuster” specials synonymous with Black Friday are being advertised this year for Thanksgiving, too.

Retailers are facing the fewest number of days since 2002 between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and are eager to get shoppers’ attention. But consumers continue to be cautious in an economy whose growth is slow and unsteady.

Shoppers “are laser-focused on discounts and deals,” says Accenture, which polled a representative sample of 500 U.S. consumers for its survey. Nearly two-thirds of respondents said it would take a discount of 30 percent or more to persuade them to buy something, up from the half of consumers who said the same thing in 2012.

Yet most projections anticipate that overall holiday sales will rise this year — even if retailers have to work harder to get them. (The Thanksgiving-to-Christmas period can account for 20 percent of annual revenue.) Despite all the attention being paid to Thanksgiving, Black Friday will remain the top sales day for retailers, says Bill Martin, founder of ShopperTrak, a retail consultant that monitors foot traffic at 70,000 shopping centers worldwide.

Martin participated last week in a conference call with reporters on holiday shopping trends, where he noted that Thanksgiving Day sales — about $800 million last year — pale in comparison to a typical Thursday in November, when $2.8 billion can be rung up.

Or to Black Friday, which last year saw sales of $11 billion.

Retailers soon may need to worry whether sales on Thanksgiving Thursday are coming at the expense of Black Friday, he said, making “Super Saturday” — the last Saturday to shop before Christmas — more important.

Martin noted that 59 percent of the holiday season’s sales occurred in December in 2004; last year, it was 56 percent. “Retailers are trying to get to [consumers’] wallets earlier,” he said of the shift in sales from December to November.

But Martin described some resistance from retailers, too, to kicking off the holiday sales season on Thanksgiving Day.

“There’s enough headwind from retailers who’ve said they’re not going to open on Thanksgiving … [that] it will take a long time for that to melt away,” he said.

Retailers also have to consider whether the cost of operating on a holiday, subtracted from the revenue generated, yields a profit. If not, the Thanksgiving hubbub “will trail off.”

“I never see [a time] when Thanksgiving takes over Black Friday,” Martin said.

You won’t find me among the millions bent on grabbing this year’s Thanksgiving retail treats.

I’m not taking a principled stand, mind you. I seem to recall a trip to a long-gone retailer on Thanksgiving Day years ago to grab a sale-priced bright blue and yellow Walkman-like kid’s cassette player.

No, I plan to be taking bows or blows after serving a health-conscious, low-sodium turkey dinner, as oxymoronic as that sounds.

Marlene Kennedy is a freelance columnist. Opinions expressed in her column are her own and not necessarily the newspaper’s. Reach her at marlenejkennedy@gmail.com.

 
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