The holidays are encroaching

Yes, the holidays are approaching. They are also encroaching, especially Christmas because of the shorter buying season this year. Home Depot already had a Christmas display by October 20th. You really are seeing Christmas promotions coming earlier every year. It is encroaching even more into autumn (in this hemisphere).

Thanksgiving in the United States is the fourth Thursday of November. Many companies also close the day after Thanksgiving, so people can enjoy a four-day weekend. Retailers realized that people enjoying a day off might have reason to go shopping with proper incentives. Wikipedia has a detailed definition and explanation of “Black Friday” for those of you living outside the United States or want more detail.

The latest date for the fourth Thursday, the 28th, occurs when the 1st is on a Friday, like November 1, 2013. The earliest date for the fourth Thursday, the 22nd, occurs when the 1st falls upon a Thursday, like November 1, 2012. Those extra six days of shopping season are very welcomed by retailers. Fast food and casual food restaurants also see a noticeable increase in sales during that period.

Stores opening on Thanksgiving Day is a recent development. There are businesses that traditionally have been open on Thanksgiving: gas stations, convenience stores, pharmacies, and restaurants. But retail stores like Target, Best Buy, Gap, and Wal-Mart would close. Unfortunately, the shortened shopping season is resulting in more retail chains opening on Thanksgiving Day itself, with some opening as early as 6:00 p.m. They believe if they are open, people will come.  My hope is that their Thanksgiving Day sales volume will not justify opening on Thanksgiving Day next year.

I had the misfortune of working for two small companies that did not close the day after Thanksgiving. I was lucky because Lucy and I would have a quiet Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday, then we traveled an hour to my brother’s house on Friday evening to be with my family, but it was still a nuisance not getting that Friday off. Some of my co-workers had family out-of-state or out-of-country. Traveling to Asia is much easier with four days off rather than a weekend. This year it directly affects a close friend who will be unable to travel back to Illinois to be with family. I know it will also affect a niece and a sister-in-law.

As long as people are willing to stand in lines waiting for a chance at acquiring a loss leader item in extremely limited supply, the retailers will keep pushing “Black Friday” open times earlier into Thanksgiving Day. People should choose to be with family on Thanksgiving rather than wade through a sea of crazed shoppers only to go home empty-handed.

While the big-box retailers are participating in their “social experiment”, a different social experiment started in 2010. Small businesses are at a disadvantage to the big-box stores.The idea behind “Small Business Saturday” was to level the playing field a bit. It is ironic that American Express championed the idea. American Express usually has the highest per transaction “swipe” fee and charges the highest merchant fee of the major credit card brands. This years’ Small Business Saturday is the Saturday after Thanksgiving, November 30th. Even if you are not an American Express card member, please take the time to shop at a small business. Check out the Shop Small map to find participating businesses. I hope to visit Carver Country Flowers,¬†Gifts & Formal Wear and say hi to Annette.

I have my outdoor Christmas lights installed. It doesn’t take very long, and I try to do it the first weekend in November. Putting lights up in 50 degree weather is better than putting up lights in 20 degree weather and standing in snow. Lucy would insist the lights stay off until the day after Thanksgiving. That is when I will plug in the outdoor light timer. The Christmas tree gets installed the Saturday or Sunday after Thanksgiving. Perhaps I’ll try making piirakkas and red velvet cakes again this year. Julie and Suzy survived my last batch of baking with no ill effects, and they’re still talking to me.

Give your special someone an extra hug tonight. I know some of you have a loved one away from home, so surprise him or her with a phone call, text message, or email. Stay warm and thank you for your time!

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