Does Thanksgiving Need a PR firm??

by

Norman-Rockwell-Thanksgiving-thanksgiving-2927689-375-479With Thanksgiving around the corner, consumers are bombarded with holiday music at every turn.  From the radio to department stores, it seems like we were just saying “trick or treat” but now we’re screaming, “Jingle Bells” on our morning commutes .

Not that getting into the holiday spirit early is a bad thing, but since when did it become acceptable to forget about Thanksgiving? Thanksgiving seems to get lost in the shuffle due to the lack of big commercialization, flashy window displays, and a lack of magical figures like Santa Claus providing gifts and treats all month long.

Now more than ever, people are focusing less and less on Thanksgiving and more on the holidays with big purchasing potential. With corporations and businesses opening their doors on Thanksgiving Day, poor Thanksgiving is primarily known as the beginning of Christmas.  It begs the question: does Thanksgiving have a Public Relations problem?

When we thought Macy’s was only responsible for the Thanksgiving Day parade, they pivoted their strategy and are opening their doors on Thanksgiving to encourage holiday shopping. The department store that has always upheld one of our biggest holiday traditions will open at 6:00 pm on Thanksgiving–two hours earlier than last year and just around the same time Americans begin to digest their turkey dinners. Other stores opening along with Macy’s include Best Buy, JC Penney, Toys R US, Target, Sears, and many others.

On the other hand, Thanksgiving-friendly businesses pledged to keep their doors closed–and the public is responding nicely. BJ’s distributed a press release announcing their decision of “…bucking the retail trend of putting sales on Thanksgiving above family time.” Similarly, BuzzFeed released an article listing the confirmed stores who pledge to stay closed in an effort to keep Thanksgiving as a family holiday.

With the pressure surrounding this decision, retailers and businesses have been placed in an awkward PR light. According to Macy’s Spokeswoman Holly Thomas, in 2013 its flagship Herald Square store broke its record with about 15,000 people waiting for the doors to open Thanksgiving Day. A survey by consulting firm Accenture has found that 45% of Americans do plan to shop and put their Thanksgiving dinners aside.  Allowing consumers to get a jump on their holiday shopping could serve as a last hope for some business like JC Penney, which has struggled in recent to keep revenue up.

Even with revenue at the center of the debate, it’s still difficult to ignore the outcry of Americans who want businesses to close their doors in order for employees to have a day with family and friends. As public relations professionals, it’s hard to ignore the fact that Thanksgiving is losing steam and taking a back seat to the heavier hitting holidays.  Thanksgiving used to have a great PR message: we had turkey, stuffing, pilgrims, and Football. We had A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving and drunk relatives passed out in the arm chair.  It’s important Thanksgiving revitalizes these all-American themes – without them, Christmas will be here as soon as they leaves turn red and the temperature drops below 50.

No matter which side of the “holiday-shopping-on-Thanksgiving” debate you stand on, businesses are receiving attention for their decision—which could end up working in turkey day’s favor.  People are fighting for the Holiday in one way or another, even if traditions are changing.

Whether you decide to spend it at home enjoying a turkey dinner, braving the crowds, or even working at one of the many open stores we hope you at least enjoy it with friends and family – which is exactly what Thanksgiving promotes all on its own.  No flashy window displays required.

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