Shop around the clock

On Thursday, we gave thanks — for the food on the table, for family and friends, for good health. We prayed for peace on earth and remembered the needy. We cooked and ate and enjoyed a day with loved ones.Today we shop.

(Early bird: Justin Kwong beats the crowd to a PlayStation 3. / By Paul Sakuma, AP)

The drill is familiar to all by now: Get to the store early, run up lots of debt while “saving” on sale items. It’s as much a part of the Thanksgiving weekend as stuffed turkey.

More even. At least that’s the way some retailers see things. This year, some stores moved their Black Friday opening from 5 a.m. to 12:01 a.m. Others, such  as CompUSA and BJ’s Wholesale Club, went a step further and opened on Thanksgiving Day itself, so shoppers could get a head start on the post-Thanksgiving madness.  If the early birds get their way, this will become the latest big thing. And rushing off to the store today will be so very, very — yesterday.

Sooner or later this was bound to happen. Thanksgiving, after all, does kind of get in the way of things. It’s a day when millions of Americans stay home, dine in and keep their wallets in their pockets. If it weren’t the quintessential American holiday, it would probably be deemed un-American.

It wasn’t such a problem when the day after Thanksgiving actually marked the beginning of the Christmas shopping season, the day communities could, in good taste, hang plastic wreaths and red ribbons on street lamps to remind people of their shopping obligations.

But with the official start having been moved forward (to sometime around Valentine’s Day, we believe) Thanksgiving is an inopportune timeout just as Christmas commerce is reaching a fever pitch. By opening on Thanksgiving, these retailers hope that hard-core shoppers will come to them first. If that happens, other retailers will feel pressure to open on the holiday, too.

Aside from depriving store employees the opportunity to spend a full day with their families, the “open on Thanksgiving” trend has ramifications well beyond the retail trade. In a sense, these retailers are putting the question to the American people of how important Thanksgiving is. Will they still want to spend time quietly with family and friends when they could be out and stalking the elusive PlayStation 3?

We hope that for most the answer is yes. That’s the only way to keep Thanksgiving a very special day.

USA Today,

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~ by anick on November 24, 2006.

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