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Apodaca: On the side of the floppers

November 23, 2013|By Patrice Apodaca

Thanksgiving is increasingly becoming a holiday divided into two camps: shoppers vs. floppers.

I'm a flopper. After a week of muscular produce buying, and three days of virtually nonstop cooking culminating in 20 minutes of power eating, I can't wait to flop on a couch and digest the old-fashioned way: horizontally.

But I realize I'm part of a shrinking group of old-fogy traditionalists. For this Thanksgiving, a growing number of retailers will be open on Turkey Day, offering so many seductive come-ons that many will find it hard to resist abandoning the after-dinner sofa in favor of a mall or big-box store excursion.

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The idea was hatched a few years ago, but this season it seems Thanksgiving Day shopping has segued from an experiment born of desperation into a permanent feature. The day reserved for a nation to give thanks is now the official kick-off for the biggest consumer-driven holiday of all.

Crass as it might seem, this development isn't really all that surprising. Retailing trends are like vampires: Not long ago the undead were the subject of a few popular teen books, then suddenly every other movie and TV show was crawling with them.

That's how it is in retailing. One or two chains try out a gimmick, and if it measures even modest success pretty soon everyone's doing it. And, like vampires, those trends are almost impossible to put back in the box.

Remember a time when we all had to pay full retail prices until the doorbuster sales started the day after Christmas? Then a few retailers started cutting prices before the holiday, and soon merchants were tripping over themselves to offer the best pre-Christmas deals.

So now we have chains that led the Thanksgiving Day trend in the past few years, including Walmart, Target and Toys R Us, announcing that they will be open even longer hours Thursday. Even retailers such as Macy's and Best Buy, which had previously waited until midnight to unlock their doors, are now planning earlier openings.

In one sense we must pity the poor retailer. Many stores, which typically rely on the Christmas season for an estimated 20% to 40% of annual sales, still haven't completely recovered from the last recession, and this year is worrisome because of the fewer-than-usual number of days between Thanksgiving and Christmas. It's understandable that they feel pressure to pull out all stops in pursuit of profits.

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