THE BLOG

The Night Before Black Friday: Grey Thursday

11/20/2012 02:48 pm ET | Updated Jan 20, 2013

The savory yet scant piece of time spent "post-feasting" on Thanksgiving Day is extremely precious. And one coveted all year long.

For many, it's a time to revel in turkey-induced food comas, to watch football, to go to the movie theatres, to watch movies at home, to lounge around with friends and family in a holiday haze and begin the official countdown to Christmas.

For many others, these prized finite hours represent the calm before the storm. An oasis of relaxation in anticipation of the morning after and the promised glory of Black Friday's shopping sales and couponing.

Yet, this year, this sacred "day after" seems to have come a day early -- in the form of Grey Thursday.

Hoping to drive additional traffic to their aisles before the actual day of reckoning, superstores like Walmart and Target are opening their stores on Thanksgiving Day with exclusive offers and limited time only super sales.

Jockeying for consumers' next incremental physical and digital dollar becomes even more amplified during the holidays. Consumerism is synonymous with "pumpkin spice" as the word du jour of the season, so it's not a big surprise that this step change in big box retail strategy has taken place.

But in an attempt to "make a buck" are we missing the point? Is this phenomenon of Grey Thursday a good or bad inflection in how consumers will operate on and spend Thanksgiving Day?

E-commerce has already positively transformed how we shop and approach Black Friday. As families look to stretch their dollar in this economy, stores opening their doors a day earlier with massive sales can be positive for consumers' pocket books.

But is it directionally positive for us as a society of consumers?

Amidst busy and unrelenting work and home schedules, these same consumers comprise families who are also looking to stretch their minute at home. Stores opening their doors a day earlier with massive sales can negatively impact this limited window of family time. Store employees are similarly robbed of this valuable discretionary time. As evidenced by the recent onslaught of petitions, this time off is regarded dearly.

Not carrying the venomous poison that Black Friday wields for forecasting holiday product sales, Grey Thursday's potency lies in what it could potentially do to family time on this day of thanks.

If moms, dads, and caretakers are rushing to the stores on Thursday afternoon and evening to take advantage of sales, then they're not rushing to catch the football in their backyards, they're not rushing to guess who the character is in a game of charades, they're not rushing to be with their children and loved ones.

Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday... substantial savings are a big deal. For many families these sales are the game changer to how their holiday season unravels. But forsaking an evening of family time to stand in line for marginal savings should be considered by families and retailers alike on this particular Thursday.

What is the tradeoff? What are the cost savings? What are the implications? What are the sacrifices?

The call of retailer coupons and discounts on Thursday will be too loud and too seductive for many families to ignore. So the plea is singular: Can retailers relax their scanners for one critical afternoon on a crucial day preserved for giving thanks and not for handing over a credit card?

Some traditions are reinforced and some fade away. In the name of a day devoted to thanks that is at the whim of the almighty consumer dollar, we'd be better off to remember that lesson.