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Happy 15 minutes-off-work-to-have-a-turkey-sandwich day
By Meredith Schwartz
Remember when Thanksgiving, America's most universal holiday, was to be celebrated with family and friends and being thankful for what we have? Or in giving back, serving the less fortunate?
Well, those days are over. It was bad enough when stores started opening early on Black Friday - first at six, then five, then four and three a.m., so employees had to face the ravening door-buster crowds groggy with lack of sleep and too much turkey...then at midnight, so they didn't get to sleep at all. But at least it was theoretically, technically, Friday. Now Toys "R" Us is opening at 9 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day itself. Wal-Mart is opening at 10 p.m. and Target at 11 p.m. This turkey has jumped the shark.
And for what? I'm all for extending store hours to evenings and weekends, to allow for the reality of the modern two-career family. For most, shopping Monday-Friday, 9-5 is no longer a realistic plan. For observant Jews and Seventh Day Adventists, Sunday hours are a necessity, not just a convenience. But who are these people who can only shop on Thanksgiving Day itself because they work Friday, Saturday and Sunday of the holiday weekend? Other, that is, than other retail employees. I wish I could believe TRU was opening early to let the poor beleaguered Wal-Mart workers do their own shopping, but we know better. In the race for the scarce consumer dollar, these mass market brands are more than willing to run over their workers' quality of life to be first. (And it's not like the workers are eager for the overtime... they're petitioning to stop it.) It's sad. I really hope it's also stupid, and consumers stay away from the stores in droves. Because if these shenanigans show a profit, you know next year they and their competitors will be opening at 8 p.m., and 7, and 6 ...
The key for specialty retailers, it seems to me, is not only to treat their employees better than this - which is a) not hard and b) one of the keys to offering better customer service - but to toot their own horn about it. One of the most popular graphics floating around Facebook these days is a Nordstrom sign saying the retailer refuses to give in to "Christmas Creep" and will not start holiday merchandising until after Thanksgiving. This sturdy independence is also smart marketing, and it struck a chord with customers who want to be, and be recognized as, as more than just consumers.
Why not highlight what makes your store different than a soulless Big Box by putting up a sign saying "We have given our employees Thursday AND Friday off to spend giving thanks for all our blessings. We hope to see you on Small Business Saturday, and don't wake up early on your day off on our account. We promise, all our best deals will still be available after brunch."