Retail Holiday Sales: It's Called Thanksgiving, Not Thanksgetting

By Bob Phibbs

Thanksgiving retail

The US Thanksgiving holiday will be celebrated this year with retailers opening on Thanksgiving and people leaving their homes to shop instead of sharing their day with loved ones. 

Thanksgiving I still believe, is about giving, not getting.

Thanksgiving used to be a holiday where several generations of family and friends would be seated around a large dinner table listening as Grandfather said grace, then watching as Dad carved the turkey and Mom brought out the pies.

The kids were sitting quietly at a separate table. It is an image captured in a Norman Rockwell painting.

 It is far removed from reality for many today.

Things have changed.

Today, the holiday could just as easily be two guys at a Chipotle, a single mom and her child eating in their car, or a woman eating alone at a five-star restaurant in Los Angeles.

There is no shame that families and holiday traditions have changed in modern times.

Macy's and a lot of malls are opening for business at 6pm on Thanksgiving. A Twitter fan alerted me, "simonmalls is opening Orlando and Seattle locations ALL day on Thanksgiving Day." 

This new tradition of opening retail stores early for Black Friday - or simply opening a store for their usual hours on Thanksgiving - is dangerous because it reduces a national day of reflection to yet another sale day.

While they all plead they had to do it because of competitors and shopper interest, let's be honest here, any sales they make cannibalize sales that they would have made at another time. 

And the more retailers open earlier and earlier on Thanksgiving, the less meaningful the kickoff to the holidays - Black Friday - becomes. Retail holiday sales aren't like they used to be with 24/7 web access and smartphones ready at a moment's notice.

So I have to ask...

Does taking away the need for a country’s reflection and gratefulness equal the cost?

Shouldn’t Thanksgiving Day still remain a pause button in the middle of a hectic scramble toward the end of the year?

Retailers, are we so anxious about our holiday profits that we have to change the most meaningful day of the year into one more hectic shopping day?

Are we so sure that is the only way to compete?

What about the need for us to stop long enough to be thankful? As a guy whose childhood was rooted in the tumultuous 60’s, I spent much of my life being anxious about what was wrong. I didn’t learn to be thankful for what was right in my life.

I had to consciously choose to learn that. I had to learn to inventory what happenstance, coincidence, luck and perseverance got me to this place in my life.

I had to appreciate what brought me to this day. Now.

It wasn’t easy, and it took time.

That was at a time before my iPhone chirped, clucked and vibrated its way into my every waking hour.

Back before I obsessively checked social media, email, and the news.

Back when the mall was closed on Thanksgiving.

Download my Best Holiday Advice For 2014 here

The fourth Thursday in November was that one day I would sit around my family’s table and my sister-in-law would ask each of us what we were grateful for. We knew it was coming. It was a tradition. This was always the time when I realized how thankful I was for a multitude of things.

Sure it was easy to say I was thankful for family and friends, but this was also the time I realized I was thankful for the times when I didn’t get my way because those times developed my character.

How about you? What about a time you were turned down for a job? Didn’t that help you find the right path later on?

You see what I mean? You are where you are because of the choices you made. It’s the opportunities as a whole that make us who we are. But appreciating that takes the space to cultivate being thankful.

To unplug.

To not shop.

To have space.

That’s my beef with stores opening on this national holiday...

It’s just another day at the mall – going our separate ways.

Lehigh Valley Live recently asked readers to vote on how early stores should open on Thanksgiving. At last check, around 4% responded “as early as they can.” On the other hand, 82% voted “They shouldn’t. It’s a holiday.”

The less thankful any of us become, the more callous, insulated, and isolated we become.

Which brings me back to you…

Even if you have to open and be in your store that night … because the mall says so...

Or because you need the money...

Or because you hate your family and don’t want to spend much time with them...

The practice of being thankful is a daily discipline for those who achieve high goals. So today, tomorrow, Black Friday, or White Christmas,I encourage you to pause and list at least five things you are thankful for.

And that includes people and circumstances… not products.

I’m thankful for so many of you around the world who read my tweets, updates, and books.

I am thankful you watch my videos and take my retail sales training.

I’m thankful that the Internet came along so I had a way to reach so many of you on almost every content within moments of posting a thought.

I’m thankful for the boss I had who wouldn’t give me a lower goal when I campaigned for it.

I am thankful for the team of people who support me as I find more opportunities to share what is so in my world.

I am indeed thankful for each and every one of you.

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