It’s not really Wal-Mart’s fault

Wal-Mart, Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Sale

Family advocates are up in arms about Wal-Mart’s announcement earlier today that they will begin Black Friday sales on Thanksgiving Day at 6pm. That’s right about the time most of us are usually (or should be) enjoying our Thanksgiving meal with loved ones. Instead, folks will be cutting their holiday short to scoop up the deep price cuts Wal-Nart Stores, Inc. will be offering to, ahem, Black Friday shoppers. If they’re not shopping, they’ll be staffing store aisles, running checkouts, or restocking shelves.

Wal-Mart’s sales extravaganza begins two hours earlier this year than last year in response to the earlier Black Friday sales launch of other major retailers such as J.C. Penney Co., Macy’s Inc., and Kohl’s Corp., who announced that they would open their doors at 8pm this Thanksgiving.

Additionally, Wal-Mart will start its online Black Friday deals on Thanksgiving morning, featuring some of the same sales that will be offered in-store that evening.

According to Wal-mart Executive Vice President and Chief Merchandising and Marketing Officer at Wal-Mart’s U.S. namesake division, Duncan McNaughton, the retailer made its decision after careful examination of the competition landscape.

“Everyone’s moved up this year so it will be a new dynamic,” he  said.

You bet it’s a new dynamic. It’s a dangerous dynamic that will distract families from their time together and pull them away from the Thanksgiving dinner table. Families have precious little time together as it is, they aren’t in need of a dynamic that further curtails it.

As an aside, I find it sad that, for the sale, Wal-Mart will increase its stock of televisions by 65 percent and double its number of tablet computers. Televisions and computers are two of the biggest time-suckers that divert family members’ attention away from each other. If they’re focusing on a screen, they’re not focusing on each other. Ironically, Wal-Mart is running a sale that will distract families from their time together in order to sell them products that will further distract them from each other. Um, yeah.

In the media, I observed two further justifications for the creeping  back of Black Friday this year, not just from Wal-Mart, but from several retailers. First, there are six fewer shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year. So? Second, with the economy in such bad shape, families suffering from the economic downturn “depend on” the exceptional sales offered on Black Friday/Thanksgiving so that they can “afford the Christmas they want.” The Christmas they want? You’re kidding me, right? Guess not.

All this is concerning, to say the least. But, here’s the thing: It’s not really Wal-Mart’s fault. It’s not even the other retailers’ fault. It’s not even President Obama’s or George W. Bush’s fault. It’s our fault.

We started this whole thing, first by getting up in the wee hours the day after Thanksgiving, then by leaving our homes late on Thanksgiving Day, and then by shortening our dinners on Thanksgiving day to line up at the store entrance so we could fight the other shoppers for the best deals.

Retailers are offering sales that cut into our Thanksgiving holiday because they know that families will cut their Thanksgiving dinners short in order to take advantage of their sales. They are merely responding to consumer behavior. If we didn’t go, they wouldn’t offer the sales. If we stayed at our Thanksgiving dinner tables, they’d stay at theirs.

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