Black Friday 2011 deal mania: Thanksgiving hours spark backlash

November 18, 2011

Black Friday is just around the corner, and retailers such as Target, Toys “R” Us, Macy’s and others are racing to advertise deals and their extended hours. Many of the major retailers will open at midnight or earlier on Thanksgiving, which has sparked backlash from some employees. As Ashley Lutz reported:

Anthony Hardwick says he resents working at Target Corp. on Thanksgiving and has garnered more than 37,000 signatures on an online protest petition.

Target, Macy’s Inc., Gap Inc., Kohl’s Corp., Toys “R” Us Inc. and Best Buy Co. all plan to open at midnight or earlier on Thanksgiving in an attempt to goose sales that the National Retail Federation says may rise just 2.8 percent this holiday season, or about half as much as last year.

Hardwick, 29, who says he has been a Target parking attendant in Omaha for three years, began the petition two weeks ago on the Web site Change.org after learning that he and his coworkers would be required to start at 11 p.m. Nov. 24 for a 10-hour shift.

“I was so disappointed the day I found out about this because I did the math in my head and I was going to have to go to bed in the early afternoon on Thanksgiving to go in and work 10 hours,” Hardwick said in a telephone interview. “Everyone at work was resigned because the economy is bad and so our employer has us over a barrel.”

Hardwick said that he hasn’t heard from Target and that he fears losing his job for starting the protest and speaking to the media.

Target is the “unlucky” focus of a “new tradition” many retailers have started to spur excitement about the holiday season, said Marshal Cohen, an analyst at the Port Washington, New York-based NPD Group.

“This petition and sentiment will gain momentum,” Cohen said in a telephone interview. “The people who avoid the stores will be telling the retailer they will not shop there because they are breaking tradition.”

About 22 million shoppers looked for deals on Thanksgiving last year, Kathy Grannis, a spokeswoman for the Washington-based NRF, said in a telephone interview. That’s about a quarter of the consumers who shopped the next day, known as Black Friday, she said.

Many have decried the encroachment of the traditional Black Friday shopping into Thanksgiving because of its disruption of the family celebrations. As Susan Brooks Thistlewaite wrote:

How much is the American worker supposed to put up with? Ordinary Americans are already overworked and underpaid, but major retailers like Wal-Mart are pushing their “Black Friday” sales into Thanksgiving day, some starting at 10 p.m. on the holiday. These stores are invading one of the few holidays many workers get anymore.

No thanks.

Thanksgiving is about family and friends rejoicing together, relaxing after all the hard work of the year. But now workers in these stores are even losing that option; if stores continue the drive to start “Black Friday” on Thursday, some employees will have to literally get up from the Thanksgiving table and head in to work.

Our economy has become a treadmill for both workers and consumers alike, locked in an awful race of overwork and consumption. If the retailers don’t get into the “black,” that is, turn huge profits during the pre-Christmas sales on the Friday after Thanksgiving, then there is the threat that more workers will lose their jobs. Consumers, with their salaries flat or even cut in recent years, think they need the sales in order to afford gifts for the holidays. Workers are locked on to this same treadmill, having to service the consumption in order for the machinery of the economy to “improve.”

Enough.

This system is profoundly immoral. First, the basic premise is false. These retailers don’t need to encroach on Thanksgiving in order to survive. Corporations are making huge profits, and they are increasingly doing so on the backs of American workers. “In the past 20 years, the U.S. economy has grown nearly 60 percent,” according to Dan Gilson of Mother Jones. This is not only due to the Internet and automation, but also as a “result of Americans working harder — often without a big boost to their bottom lines. Oh, and meanwhile, corporate profits are up 20 percent.”

With the anemic growth of the American economy worrying many retailers, some are not expecting the same sales boost that recent years have brought. As Matt Townsend reported :

Retailers’ chief marketing officers are less optimistic about sales growth on Black Friday than they were a year earlier as increasing competition prompts stores to boost discounts, according to a survey by BDO USA.

Purchases on Nov. 25, the day after the Thanksgiving holiday, may rise 1.6 percent, the average estimate of 100 executives in BDO’s survey conducted last month. That compares with an average projection of a 3.8 percent increase in the survey last year.

“It’s not a home run by any means, but it’s positive growth,” Ted Vaughan, a partner at BDO’s retail and consumer practice in Dallas, said in an interview. Black Friday’s importance has diminished as retailers start advertising holiday deals earlier, he said.

Black Friday serves as the unofficial start to the holiday shopping season when retailers lure shoppers to stores with discounts and giveaways. Sales on the day rose 0.3 percent last year, according to Chicago-based ShopperTrak. Sales for the weekend after Thanksgiving gained 6.4 percent last year, according to the National Retail Federation.

Sales for the entire holiday shopping season may increase 2.9 percent, according to the BDO survey. That would be slower than the 5.2 percent gain a year earlier that was reported by the Washington-based NRF.

More from The Washington Post

Full coverage: Black Friday 2011

Early Black Friday idea is a turkey

Retailers race to leak deal

Has Black Friday’s importance diminished?

How to give downloadable gifts

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