There has been a growing change when it comes to retailers and Thanksgiving over the last few years. While it wasn’t too long ago Thanksgiving was a day where only emergency shopping at the local convenience store could be done, that’s no longer the case. In fact, the majority of large, big-box retail stores are now open for at least some time on Thanksgiving, and these retailers have started to brand shopping on Thanksgiving Day as Gray Thursday.
Whether you like it or not, Gray Thursday is here to stay. The time when retailers waited to open their doors at 12:01 am on Friday are long gone. While there are a few major retailers which will remain closed for the entire day (Costco, GameStop and Nordstrom are part of this minority), most others will be open for at least a few hours before Black Friday. Currently most still limit their opening hours to Thursday night, though even that’s likely to change over time. K-Mart now opens at 6:00 am and stays open throughout the day, and remains open continuously for the entire four-day shopping weekend. Other retailers have been extending their Thanksgiving opening hours over the last couple of years an hour here and an hour there so that they are slowly creeping into the evening hours as well.
Retailers usually give two main reasons for embracing Gray Thursday. First, they note that their competitors are doing it, and to remain competitive they need to do the same. The second reason has been the rise of the Internet. They point out the Internet is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, including Thanksgiving. As more retailers view Internet shopping as a direct competitor, they feel the need to keep their stores open longer hours to compete here as well.
Another issue is that Black Friday has lost a lot of its traditional meaning. While it initially meant great deals which could only be found on the Friday after Thanksgiving, today it has turned into a month-long marketing campaign. More and more stores are launching their Black Friday deals the day after Halloween. What that means is the Gray Thursday is taking on the role of what Black Friday had been in the past of the great in-store deals on a single day to launch the holiday shopping season.
In the end, it’s not only the retailers to blame for this encroachment on Thanksgiving family time. The fact is that when these stores open their doors on Gray Thursday, consumers flock to them. If consumers refused to participate with these earlier opening hours, then the stores wouldn’t open their doors. As long as consumers are willing to come, the stores will continue to be open on Thanksgiving Day.
(Photo courtesy of John Henderson)