The Big Lie About Shopping on Thanksgiving and Black Friday

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Daniel Acker / Bloomberg via Getty Images

Recently released consumer surveys give the impression that roughly half of shoppers will be hitting the malls on Black Friday, and over one-third of Americans will be out at stores on Thanksgiving. Absurd.

While the consensus has it that retailers will have a rough 2013 holiday season, there is plenty of data indicating that the spread of stores opening on Thanksgiving and endless Black Friday deals will succeed in drawing the masses out to stores.

A post at Retail Customer Experience, for instance, cites a consumer poll conducted on the behalf of International Council of Shopping Centers Inc. and Goldman Sachs:

With more retailers opening their doors on Thanksgiving Day, 13 percent of U.S. consumers plan to shop on that day. However, a hefty 46 percent of consumers plan to shop on Black Friday (Nov. 29), as the day continues to be the prime focus for the bargain-conscious consumer.

(MORE: This Year, Black Friday Basically Starts a Week Early … Thanks to Walmart)

An Adweek story, meanwhile, using the research of Placed, an analytics firm that focuses on smartphone usage, states that “almost one quarter of shoppers plan to hit stores on Thanksgiving Day,” and “45% of those surveyed said they plan to shop the Friday after Thanksgiving.”

Then there’s the widely-cited holiday survey from Accenture, which some news outlets apparently think gives the impression than an even greater portion of consumers will be out crowding the stores on Thanksgiving and Black Friday. Here’s how the Detroit Free Press summed up the data:

This year, 38% of shoppers are likely to shop on Thanksgiving Day or night, according to a survey by Accenture, a management consulting company. Add to that: 55% of shoppers are likely to hit the stores on the day after Thanksgiving, compared to 44% in 2011.

What do you think such factoids truly mean? The way that press releases and news stories use phrases like “hit the stores” or simply “go shopping” seems to imply that the consumers in question will actually be venturing out to physical retail locations to do their shopping. Many of the data points also claim that the number of shoppers “hitting the stores” on Black Friday and other days is on the rise. But to a large degree, neither of these ideas is true. In fact, the implication given that, say, more than one in three American consumers will leave their homes on Thanksgiving to visit the mall is blatantly false.

(MORE: Black Friday Is Facing Extinction)

Take the Accenture survey. When asked to clarify the 38% figure listed as the portion of shoppers “likely to shop on Thanksgiving Day this year,” an Accenture representative admitted that the number included anyone browsing online or in stores on the holiday. That means that anyone clicking around on a retailer website for a minute or two on Turkey Day would be lumped into this group. Hardly what the average person thinks about when reading a phrase like “hit the stores.” (NOTE: It was the Detroit Free Press using this language, not Accenture.)

What’s more, there are other surveys that directly dispute the implications that a huge chunk of American society will be frequenting malls and retail centers on Thanksgiving, or that physical Black Friday shopping crowds are increasing. A survey from the National Retail Federation—which is in the business of pumping up the retail sector—has it that 23.5% (not 38%) of consumers plan on shopping on Thanksgiving, and presumably, the vast majority of them will focus their efforts online. (In the Accenture poll, only 28% of those who planned on shopping on Thanksgiving said they would be doing most of their shopping in physical stores.)

The latest data from Nielsen holds that the percentage of American consumers who will not go shopping in physical stores on Black Friday is clearly on the rise. According to the study, 85% of consumers will not be visiting any brick-and-mortar stores on Black Friday. Just 13% plan on hitting physical stores on Black Friday 2013, down from 17% in 2012. (Compare that to the survey results mentioned above, which imply that around half of American consumers will “go shopping” on Black Friday.) “This is part of a four-year downward trend, where consumers report a declining interest in Black Friday shopping,” Nielsen researchers explain.

(MORE: Not to Be a Grinch, But Holiday Shopping Is Looking Pretty Bad This Year)

All this being said, the stores that are open on Thanksgiving and hosting the best deals on Black Friday are sure to be crowded with loads of eager physical shoppers. After all, even if these retailers manage to draw only a tiny percentage of the American public, that represents tens of millions of consumers.

It’s just that, similar to many Black Friday deals, survey data can be misleading, and not anywhere near as impressive as it seems after closer inspection.

49 comments
Yamitora1
Yamitora1

Half those sales were lies. slight of hand last second switch aroos and "We're out of stock or only had so many in stock" lies!

Caesius254
Caesius254

So much phoney emotionalism and support for "Saving" the holidays for Family - when the reality is its but 2 days out of 365 - where no one gives a ripe-one about the lives of retail workers! Where's the support for Workers in general in this country? I'll tell you its gone! There is no Community support, much less outrage over how Retailers abuse their employees day after day, year after year! Family time? Retailers dont care about that for the rest of the year - but now everyone is upset (but not outraged!) for one or two days a year! Lame!

Where's the moral outrage that the US economy is being pinned to a few "Holiday Shopping seasons" - and that Retailers insist they HAVE TO be open for these Holidays or lose their shirts. Where's the concern that all these Deals are empty! That the Retailers have already marked their products up 150-200% thru the year and lower them 15 to maybe 30% for the holiday madness!?? And people think its a great deal they have to have!

These are empty protests because they only come 2 times a year and fade as quickly as the holiday Good cheer! If Americans actually cared they'd stop shopping on Sundays, Friday and Saturday nights, stop showing up at closing time and dilly-dallying around the stores upset that the workers want to close at closing time - and most of all stop being selfish cry-babies who make a mess of the places the rest of the time



scmduplessis
scmduplessis

Christmas has become commercial enough with retailers adding Thanksgiving into the mix. I agree with indio7761. I will not be shopping because I finished my Christmas shopping two weeks ago. I purposefully get it done, mostly online, so that I am not subjected to the shopping madness later. There were sales and savings then too. I don't have to go out in the crowds of people upon whom the meaning of Christmas is obviously lost. I am appalled by the companies who are infringing on their worker's family time (or just a day to take a much needed break) in service of the almighty dollar. Greed is not good.

OhMyDog
OhMyDog

There is no way anyone could drag  me to the stores after Thanksgiving. I can't STAND the crowds, and the hype, and the commercialism.

indio7761
indio7761

Please do not go shopping these holidays. Please stay away from the malls and restaurants and supermarkets on Thanksgiving day and Christmas day starting from midnight until 5 am the next day.

Please do not purchase anything online starting at 6pm Eastern time the day before holiday until 5am day after holidays.

There are 365 days with 2 days out of these are biggest holidays. Big companies make trillion of dollars all year round. Please have mercy on these retailed and online business workers and online workers.

You can shop until you drop. You can shop until you bankrupt but PLEASE do not steal the family reunion from these workers.

Are we so heartless and selfish and cold to the point we willing to rob and to steal the happy holidays from men, women and children whose loved one work all year round to serve us?

Are we so heartless and selfish that X-box and cell phones and clothes so valuable than humanity?

There are only 29 hours x 2 holidays (longest weekend) =  58 hours of happiness and There are 363 business days x 24 hours =8,712 hrs of making billion of dollars.

Please have mercy for these workers. They bag our grocery bags, waiting table and taking our orders, packing our items sending out overnight. Please don't take their holidays.

Have mercy because they work very hard to save these holidays.

Please this is very easy to understand. Don't let the big companies force you to be thieves. Don't let us kill each other to fatten their bonus checks.

Please tell your families, friends, neighbors, children in schools and loved ones to support these workers

Thank you and God bless you all.

seizeabe
seizeabe

Only shop with the money you have in your hand.... Needs!

It is foolish to shop on credit... Wants!

When you shop for needs, 'YOU' profit...

When you shop for wants, 'YOU' lose!

ChrissyConradAllen
ChrissyConradAllen

I also will not be shopping because 1. Thanksgiving is for FAMILIES!, 2. Nothing on my list is on sale. 3. Ebay has much better deals ALL THE TIME. I will go on Friday to see what I can find if I can then it was meant to be! I remember when stores were packed the day before both Thanksgiving and Christmas then were closed the day of the Holiday.

FrancesCappelletti
FrancesCappelletti

That's right people don't have to shop at Kmart or Walmart on Thanksgiving if they don't want to.   That is not the point.   I won't be shopping at those stores that make their employees ruin their family time on Thanksgiving, either before or after Thanksgiving.   There are many good stores to shop at other than the greedy ones.   And plenty of other days to shop.    Some restaurants serve family Thanksgiving meals.   Hospitals and law enforcement have to be open.   But department stores, no real reason they have to be open.    

pbug56
pbug56

I can understand food stores and the like being open on Thanksgiving.  Plus some eateries.  But office supply and department stores?  For the morons who think it's a good idea - use the web, and let those of us earning low wages in retail (often sub minimum wage) at least have the day off!  Hey - most of us don't get paid for the day off - don't begrudge it to us!

SteveBowlus
SteveBowlus

More to the point ... whether I shop next week, or the week before Christmas, or on Three Kings Day ... my Christmas budget is fixed, and I won't spend more than the budget.  I might spend less, if I find a deal priced below what I budgeted for some items.

bobsansculotte
bobsansculotte

Had George  W Bush been at  the Temple at that time he would have advised the Jews to just invade another country with oil and there would have been no need for the miracle of the oil lasting eight days. The Jews should have been more aggressive.

fatalreview
fatalreview

it's all to create a frenzied panic for shopping-and why would anyone EVER again take serious a poll paid for by Goldman Sacs? trying desperately to herd the lemmings for their best interest and not ours-do people not see the big game here-buy, buy buy preferably on those credit cards then take till april to pay off your holiday purchases meanwhile Credit Card Companies aka Goldman Sacs get interest-and that is just the transparent part of the plan-it gets deeper and uglier and much more manipulative from there-DON'T BE A LEMMING-don't let them herd you-it has NOTHING to do with the spirit of Christmas or the Holidays it is blatant capitalist manipulation to keep you on that hamster wheel while they cash cow you in every way possible right down to selling poisonous food in grocery stores that will slowly poison you and then fleece you thru health care-it is multi level it is evil and devious and the more they try to paint it like a pretty picture the more afraid you should be

KyleSmith1
KyleSmith1

 @Karl Hi Karl,  agree in general with what you say.  Especially in regards to Europe.  However, you fail to understand that almost all of the workers you claim are being exploited, are hourly workers that do NOT get paid holidays.  I know in Europe the thought of not giving an employee any vacation time is unheard of, well in America it is not only heard of, it is unfortunately the norm.   So many of these "exploited" workers would actually be at work, so they can earn money for their families. Just saying.

Karl
Karl

I appreciate the content of your story, it has real meat to it, not just some hot air like the "factoids" you undress, but I think a story on the steady erosion of state laws protecting the people who work in these stores from being forced to work while the better off have a choice in the matter would be just as informative and certainly not among the current memes of what's considered news-worthy. I haven't seen a story anywhere on the need to restore and protect laws that keep stores locked on major holidays to protect the employees of those stores from being exploited. Today in Europe, and a century ago here, a store open on either of those days would have faced legal consequences meant to protect workers. Today the laws have been dis-embowled of the protections that workers once had protecting their right to a Sunday day of rest and now we have employees working on Christmas Day and it's legal. Now there is a story that could create a new Zeitgeist. The burial of these rights of workers in the past quarter of a century in the United States in the name of free enterprise is a story well worth looking at as Christmas draws nears. There are days in the year where cultures intend people to be at home with their families and where laws should continue to ensure that no one, not even your boss, can change that.

TheInsomniac
TheInsomniac

I'll be out on Small Business Saturday. Anyone who shops on Thanksgiving deserves to be smacked. I feel incredibly sorry for the people who are being forced to work on this holiday. I worked retail, and had to work 2 out of 3 holidays of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years each year, and it was terrible. Business was not that good, but everyone who was there was very sad.

vadertime
vadertime

I'm encouraged about the Nielsen study that shows a 4 year downward trend for shopping on Black Friday. I'm even more encouraged about the news that less than 25% of the public will be shopping on Thanksgiving Day and the majority of them will be doing it online. If people feel the need to cut their Thanksgiving dinner short in order to hit a brick-and-mortar store for a loss-leading sale item, then that is their choice. I plan to lounge around the homestead, enjoying the company of my family and friends.

DREGstudios
DREGstudios

Is nothing sacred?  The holidays have slipped away from the general public and been completely bastardized by Big Business.   The traditional meaning of Thanksgiving and Christmas both have been diluted by mass consumerism.  Read more about the War on the Holidays and American Values being waged from the trenches of Wall Street  at http://dregstudiosart.blogspot.com/2012/11/the-war-on-thanksgiving-one-turkeys.html where one Turkey gets his revenge for encroaching on the holidays this year!

zerses
zerses

Anyone who shops on Thanksgiving or ANY national holiday is a selfish cretin.  Period.

CharlesWalters
CharlesWalters

It's nice to know that most people are still sane.

Maky8889
Maky8889

@scmduplessis shopping early may be easier on the mind (early in the "game")  but waiting is always your best option as prices will be lower  in the weeks prior to xmas, at least in Canada any ways.

BillSundry
BillSundry

@pbug56 I agree 100%.  Except no one except food servers can make below minimum wage.  :-P

KyleSmith1
KyleSmith1

@Karl Hi Karl,  agree in general with what you say.  Especially in regards to Europe.  However, you fail to understand that almost all of the workers you claim are being exploited, are hourly workers that do NOT get paid holidays.  I know in Europe the thought of not giving an employee any vacation time is unheard of, well in America it is not only heard of, it is unfortunately the norm.   So many of these "exploited" workers would actually be at work, so they can earn money for their families. Just saying.

jonjjonj
jonjjonj

@Karl Govt. intervention is not always the solution.  If you don't like the hours, get a different job.  Are we going to pass legislation that no police or emergency personnel or doctors can be allowed to work on holidays either?  It's a personal choice, if you don't want to shop on Thanksgiving, then don't.


ObiOrion
ObiOrion

@Karl The only way to stop this holiday creep is for the workers of retail stores to form unions if not already part of one and do some meaningful collective bargaining.  Consumers already desensitized by the personally rewards experienced through cheap labor WILL shop making despite feckless calls to boycott.

AlexanderMaunu
AlexanderMaunu

@TheInsomniac Small business Saturday? Anyone who supports small business is a moron. Small business destroys the American way. Why should people pay more for goods so that some unskilled moron can run their own store? Why should the public be subjected to the greed of the small business owner? I would rather support a large corporation that employs thousands of employees than support the small business owner who thinks he should get rich as a retail middle man. Small business owners only tend to have a handful of employees who never make more than minimum wage, don't get any health insurance or other benefits, and yet are still open on holidays....

AlexanderMaunu
AlexanderMaunu

@TheInsomniac Yes it is the worlds fault that your skill set is so limited you have no choice but to work an unskilled job on holidays so that people who went to school and put in the effort to have a real career can spend the money you don't think they deserve. I go shopping on holidays just to laugh at the pathetic employees who think they are worth more than $8 an hour. HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

AlexanderMaunu
AlexanderMaunu

@DREGstudios Is nothing sacred? Do you even know what thanksgiving really is? It is celebrating the "pilgrims" aka Settlers who managed to slaughter the natives and then the natives came with a peace offering which lasted until the pilgrims ran out of their food. History clearly states Thanksgiving is a brutal holiday, otherwise don't you think even one of the many still active Native American tribes would celebrate with us? Most of our "holidays" are catholic and pagan religious holidays and most Americans are no longer pagan or catholic. Simple fact is America is the country that separated church and state and the only people who think these holidays are sacred are the same people who believe in a book than has been edited more times than can be counted.

AlexanderMaunu
AlexanderMaunu

@zerses If you can define cretin ill give you $1000000. Why should people arbitrarily make a day sacred because some politician said so? People celebrate Christmas as the birth of Jesus, yet the bible clearly makes a winter birth impossible.

pbug56
pbug56

@BillSundry @pbug56 If only that were so.  Certain retail chains pay a base of say, $6 per hour plus an extremely low commission rate plus they limit hours for their part time workers except during holiday seasons.  So imagine you work an 8 hour (actual working hours, since meals are not paid) but the store is empty.  You get just the base.  Or maybe your boss has you putting out stock all day instead of helping customers.  You still get just the base.  And even if the store is busy, and you do really well, and make $80 in commissions - wow - you struck it rich at $6 plus $10 for each of the 8 hours.  During quite days, besides little to no commissions, you only get say 10 hours a week.  And you can't work another job because each week your schedule is different, and if you're not available, you get fired.

If you sell something like mattresses, you get no base at all.  If you get no customers, you don't get paid.  Not your fault, but you get $0 per hour.  And when you are busy you still don't earn much.

HelenTam-Semmens
HelenTam-Semmens

@jonjjonj @Karl What if the majority of American people like govt intervention, due to compassion for those who have to work on Thanksgiving?

If it were not for such compassionate interventions, kids in America are still 'free' to work 14-hour days, 7 days a week.

FrancesCappelletti
FrancesCappelletti

@ObiOrion @Karl There is another way to stop the greed of large companies.   When they have a 'sale' on Thanksgiving just don't fall for it.    Would be nice if no one showed up.   Then go shopping the next day or next week to stores who did the right thing in giving their employees this important family holiday off.

AlexanderMaunu
AlexanderMaunu

@ObiOrion @Karl Yes unskilled workers unionizing, that's a recipe for success! If your job can be done by a teenager, you don't need a union you need to go to school.

SuzZee
SuzZee

@AlexanderMaunu @TheInsomniac 

AlexanderMaunu: Please work on your reading comprehension as TheInsomniac clearly spoke of his experience working retail in the PAST TENSE (ie: "I workED", "had to...", "it WAS terrible," "everyone who WAS there..."). It seems you are combing through the comments to slam on anyone you see who mentions they work retail. Why? TheInsomniac is clearly well educated - it shows in his writing. Yours is full of run-on sentences so you might want to head back to school and work on that.

TheInsomniac - AlexanderMaunu is obviously  just a di**, and you pretty much got 'im with the fact that you have a doctorate. First he jumps down your throat because at one point in your life you worked retail (and OBVIOUSLY this makes you sub-human /s), and makes a major leap in reasoning to the conclusion that this means you have never pursued higher education. But when you reply that you have indeed pursued higher education (and very likely far surpassed him in the academic realm) he replies that you're just a "pathetic teenager". WHAT? Can't win with this guy.

Oh, and Alex, buddy, I have never worked retail and am a college student at a large research university. But I'm baffled by your contempt for those who do.

redmerlot
redmerlot

Enjoy your time sneering at those pathetic employees.   Each of them has a story to tell.  Some of them dragged themselves out of slums.  Some of them are recovering from horrible job losses.  Some of them are earning extra cash to put themselves through school. 

Keep laughing at those pathetic employees.  Maybe one of them will be the lawyer who one day saves your behind, or the engineer who helps to design your next car, or an EMT who saves your life. 

How short-sighted and unaware you are that you look at employees on holidays the way you do, and you profess to be an educated man.


You bear the chain you forge in life, and it is a ponderous chain.



TheInsomniac
TheInsomniac

@AlexanderMaunu @TheInsomniac Well aren't you a special kind of a$$hole? I was putting myself through college, and it was the best job I could find during that recession. I've since earned a doctorate in my field and have an outstanding job, so my skill set is more than adequate. But that doesn't mean I'm suddenly going to become ignorant of what that situation is like for other people.

It's called empathy; a basic human capacity whose lack is considered a defining characteristic of psychopaths.

krysten
krysten

@AlexanderMaunu @zerses winter birth? I also believe that the bible didn't put Jesus' birth in the United States..... Maybe you might like to do a little research on climate in Israel, and also probably why December was chosen as the month for Christmas....

SalvadorMorales
SalvadorMorales

@HelenTam-Semmens @jonjjonj @Karl Yeah let the kids work!!! they are lazy burdens in the economy that produce nothing. (Tongue clearly in cheek) People talk about changing jobs like it is as simple as changing underwear. With the economy being what it is you cannot afford losing a job. Even if you could, if they treat you like crap it's not a matter of your inability to change jobs, is about labor laws protecting the unprotected. Historically labor laws protect workers because they are in a position of disadvantage since bosses have the means of production. With the reasoining of "if you don't like the hours change jobs" we are going to get to the point of "if they don't want to pay you extra hours change jobs. If they want you to work 80 hours a week and you don't want to, well change jobs"

SalvadorMorales
SalvadorMorales

@AlexanderMaunu They need unions because they need protection. The fact that they don't require a PhD to flip burgers doesn't mean they are less of a person. Everyone needs this kind of job. Who would make your fast food? Who would be the cashier at your local Target? Who would be waiting tables at restaurants?? The ideal scenario would be for this teenagers to get skills and then get better jobs, but sometimes people don't study. What are you gonna do?? Make them starve because they need a career to flip burgers? Yes they will earn less, but that doesn't mean that employers can treat them like garbage because they lack education.

SalvadorMorales
SalvadorMorales

@TheInsomniac @AlexanderMaunu No he won't because he thinks that a doctor wouldn't be suited to serve Your Grace. He even holds his iPhone proudly since it was assembled by PhD's you know... 

DiscoSuperfly
DiscoSuperfly

@AlexanderMaunu an oldish looking fellow using a selfie as his avatar is pretty much screams pathetic. Ya also ain't one to be choppin on intelligence becuze u gots at least one typo goin on in ur tirades. go spen sum o yo $$ for grammer lessins.

TheInsomniac
TheInsomniac

Does possessing a doctorate mean that I'm not supposed to be on the internet? I missed that memo. Does it also mean that I can't type $$ signs to avoid filters? I didn't learn that while writing my dissertation.