The last few days have been filled with stories about retailers ruining Thanksgiving by moving Black Friday sales and events into the early evening of turkey day. The most common explanation seems to be that a herd mentality is driving this change. Once one chain does it, others feel compelled to follow to protect their own sales and market share. Certainly that is one explanation, but considering that retailers have been experimenting with being open on Thanksgiving (Kmart has done so for years) or running Black Friday sales on Thanksgiving (the old CompUSA ran 9PM Thanksgiving night sales in the years before it collapsed) it appears that there ought to be something else out there driving this rush to extend Black Friday forward.
In our mind we clearly see the Grinch in this and it is the Internet. Competition between retailers has been on-going for years but at least your brick and mortar competitor closed at some point. Today, the ubiquity of fast data connections and online shopping means that consumers can shop 24×7 including all day on Thanksgiving. For us the most likely culprit in stealing share from the physical retail channel is therefore the web. Fear is driving retailers to open earlier and earlier to leave a shorter and shorter window to the consumers when their only shopping option is online.
Of course, almost every retailer has a relatively robust online presence these days, and we have been talking about and tracking the melding together of Black Friday between the retailers online and physical stores for a few years now. But, as sales become more precious, and the retailers come to recognize that their true advantage, especially on a day like Black Friday, is the physical store, most of them have come to the conclusion that refocusing their effort on the excitement of Black Friday deals and the energy of the large crowds is the best way to maintain and grow share in their physical stores.