Thanksgiving is the new Black Friday
Nov 20, 2012 (Menafn - The Press-Enterprise - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --Jo Isley and Casey St. Clair have totally opposite views about Thanksgiving Thursday morphing into the new Black Friday as the stores start the holiday shopping clock before the turkey is even cold.
After packing up leftovers at her in-laws, Isley, 35, a homemaker in Beaumont, can't wait to hit the stores by 6 p.m. -- Walmart, Toys R Us and Sears are leading the pack of mass merchandisers with 8 p.m. openings. Target will mark its earliest door buster ever at 9 p.m.
Not everyone finds this early bird hype a cause to celebrate.
Piggybacking the Black Friday shopping frenzy on the traditional family holiday has blackened the mood of some of Target's employees, especially St. Clair, 24, who works in the Norco store.
She has spearheaded the backlash creating a huge Internet buzz. It started Nov. 8 when she drew up a petition on Change.org -- the largest platform in the world for petitions -- that urged like-minded consumers to protest Black Friday's intrusion into the family holiday.
Armed with more than 353,000 signatures, St. Clair personally presented the petition Monday, Nov. 19, at Target's corporate headquarters in Minneapolis.
Target's vice president of human resources, Tim Curoe, said he appreciates that many employees are cutting short their holiday to work on Thanksgiving. "And yet we've heard from many of our team members that they are supportive of our plans, excited to get additional hours, holiday and incentive pay and understand the need to compete," he wrote in an email.
St. Clair could not be reached for comment. She wasn't the only activist to foment resistance to shopping earlier.
Change.org received 130 such petitions objecting to Black Thursday and seven petitions supporting it, but St. Clair's had the most backers, according to Charlotte Hill, communications manager of Change.org, based in San Francisco.
Some signers, fearing dismissal from their employers, remained anonymous, she said. "Casey's employers told her she wouldn't face any reprisals," Hill said.
SPENDING THE DAY
Is pushing the grabfest into Thanksgiving a blessing or curse? That sentiment depends on whom you talk to.
Black Friday deal hunters started camping in front of the Best Buy in Murrieta at 10 p.m. Sunday. By noon Monday, seven people had set up tents in front of the store.
Felicia Herrera, 33, of Temecula, wants to nab two Toshiba televisions that will be deeply discounted during the sale, which starts at midnight Thursday.
"I just feel bad for the people that have to work on Thursday. They could be home with their families," Herrera said. "I could be home, too, but I have my family coming to bring me Thanksgiving dinner."
Retail analysts say that rolling out the welcome mat on Thanksgiving Day has been a boon to retailers during the economic downturn.
The number of people who mall hop on Thanksgiving or fire up the computer rose to 22.3 million in 2010, about double the figure in 2005, according to the National Retail Federation. Last year, the number of shoppers who hit the stores on Thanksgiving at midnight was triple the number in 2009.
Big-box stores are eager to offer earlier holiday specials to take a bigger bite out of the biggest selling season of the year. After all, this is when retailers rake in more than a third of their annual sales.
Black Friday, so named because it's the day when most retailers' sales move "into the black" for the year, may boost sales but lower employee morale, said one workplace expert, John A. Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. in Chicago. Under intensive pressure and competition to kick-start the holiday shopping season, retailers shouldn't be surprised by disgruntled workers and consumer fallout, he said.
The "encroachment" of shopping into Thanksgiving started two years ago as mass merchandisers responded to the 24-7 competition of online shopping, Challenger said. "As Amazon and other Internet sites made incursions into revenues of the brick-and-mortar stores, they began fighting for their share."
Some chains, such as JC Penney, have resisted the pressure. The company tweeted: "Thanksgiving is for thanking, not shopping. We open 6am #BlackFriday w/hundreds of amazing deals."
Disney stores are sticking with a midnight opening.
"We didn't feel the need to adjust our hours," said Paul Gainer, executive vice president of The Disney Stores. For the past four years, more than 150 of the 220 stores have opened at midnight after Thanksgiving instead of the traditional 6 a.m Friday, he said. "We feel good having our stores closed on Thanksgiving Day."
St. Clair, who has worked at Target in Norco since July 2007, said in the petition that she enjoys her job and gets the importance of Black Friday. Initially, she even liked working that day.
"I thought it was interesting the first year I worked the 4 a.m. opening," she wrote. "Last year's opening at midnight was pushing it. By the time I left around 8 a.m., I was absolutely exhausted." She also works as a substitute teacher and said she would love to spend the holiday relaxing.
As a transplant to California, St. Clair lamented that the necessity of working on Black Friday prevents her from celebrating Thanksgiving with her family on the East Coast. So also misses out spending the holiday with her boyfriend's family. "Target can take the high road and save Thanksgiving for employees like me and our families by saying no 'Thanksgiving Creep,'" she wrote.
"It's all about saving money," said Jo Isley, mother of three children with another on the way. She plans to line up first at Walmart, then swing by Kmart. "I'm looking at spending 100 per child, but shopping early isn't worth it unless each toy is 30 to 40 percent off."
Jessica Fritz, 27, who works in a big box store in Northridge she won't name, is conflicted about Black Thursday. She feels bad for co-workers whose holiday will be cut short on Thanksgiving but wouldn't miss out on the bargains herself.
After she and relatives finish their 2 p.m. meal, they'll pile into three cars clutching wish lists and head for Sears, Target, Walmart and any other big chain store that's open. Then she'll race home to Simi Valley to work in her store, which opens at midnight.
"Thanksgiving is a day to be thankful for," Fritz said. "And shopping has become one of our traditions."
Follow Laurie Lucas on Twitter @laurielucas; check her blog on blog.pe.com/retail.
Also contributing: Staff writer John Hill.
Walmart -- Open 8 p.m., special sale 10-11 p.m. includes:
Apple iPad2, 16GB, Wi-Fi, 399 (includes 75 gift card)
Emerson 32-inch 720p LCD TV, 148
LG Blue-ray Player, 38
Toys R Us -- Open 8 p.m. with deals for:
Fisher-Price Rock Star Mickey, 19.98
Powerwheels riding sports quads, 49.99
Leapfrog tag reading system with books, 19.99
Sears -- Open 8 p.m. Among the sales:
32-inch HDTV, 97
Proscan DVD Player, 9.99
Diamond jewelry, 2 carats, 99
Target -- Open 9 p.m. A few offerings:
32-inch HDTV, 147
Xbox 360 Kinect bundle, 199.99
Nook Simple Touch E-Reader, 49
Other stores: Kohl's, midnight Thursday; Home Depot, Lowe's, 5 a.m. Friday.
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