Is Thanksgiving Day Shopping Here to Stay?

thanksgiving-open-200Despite all the angst and venom consumers spewed towards merchants who chose to open their doors on Thanksgiving night, it appears Thanksgiving Day shopping is here to stay.

Here’s why.

ShopperTrak estimates that, when compared to Thanksgiving and Black Friday last year, brick-and-mortar shopper traffic increased 2.8% to more than 1.07 billion store visits. Retail sales also increased by 2.3%, as shoppers spent an estimated total of $12.3 billion across the two days.

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But the numbers tell a very different story when viewing only data for Black Friday 2013. When compared to Black Friday last year, brick-and-mortar shopper traffic fell 11.4% and retail sales also decreased by 13.2%.

RetailNext adds data that shows Black Friday retail store traffic was down 5.8%. That research firm adds Thanksgiving Day traffic was up 20.5%, but acknowledges more merchants were open this year.

Matthew Shay, CEO of the National Retail Federation, says Thanksgiving Day did not bleed into Black Friday. The NRF’s figures show that 45 million shoppers were in stores on Thanksgiving Day, while 92 million hit the stores on Black Friday.

“Thanksgiving Day shopping has evolved into something that’s more than just a fad, it’s become a tradition for some shoppers,” Shay said during a Dec. 1 conference call for media and analysts. “Pretty clear Thanksgiving has become increasingly important, and it’s happening because that’s what consumers say they want.”

Shay said merchants also understand that the push toward being open on Thanksgiving Day can cut into their Black Friday revenues. But merchants also understand that shoppers don’t necessarily want to be out shopping at midnight on Black Friday.

Instead, merchants are accommodating consumers by being open when consumers tell them they want to shop. That’s why, for example, some retailers decided to put categories of merchandise on sale at various times of the day, as opposed to having everything on sale all at once.

“My main observation is retailers have evolve in the way they engage with consumers, and consumers are telling retailers how they want to be involved,” Shay said.

By the way, Thanksgiving 2014 is on Nov. 27. Ant that means there will only be one more shopping day during holiday 2014 than holiday 2013.

Shay would not answer yes or no to the million dollar question during the Dec. 1 conference call: Will stores be open on Thanksgiving Day 2014. That, he said, will be up to the retail CEOs, and that a myriad of factors have to be taken into consideration.

That includes staffing, what’s important to retail employees, and, ultimately, what the consumer wants.

But based on the information we have in hand, it would be a safe bet to say Thanksgiving Day store openings are here to stay.

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