Shopsgiving: The decision to open succeeds and fails

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This is the year Thanksgiving lost its innocence. It used to mark the start of the Christmas season with all its attendant commercialism. But in recent years, that cultural barrier has been breached by degrees. This year it was cast aside in wholesale fashion, with Target, Macy’s and other retailers tempting shoppers with early November discounts and opening stores on Thanksgiving Day itself.

This became its own cultural event, with widespread laments that the sanctity of a family-oriented day with a special place in American tradition had been forever compromised. There was sympathy for poorly paid store assistants forced to leave their own families in order to staff the cash registers. Indeed, activists staged protests outside Walmart stores nationally.

But after all this criticism and regret, Americans came out on Turkey Day in great numbers and shopped. Black Friday, move over for Thanksgiving Day shopping — Shopsgiving, as a customer at Ross Park Mall described it Thursday to the Post-Gazette.

What our team of reporters discovered is that although customers flocked to the stores Thursday, nearly all of those interviewed agreed that stores should not open on Thanksgiving. “We think they should leave it on Black Friday like they used to”, a woman from West Elizabeth said. “But I guess this is society. With money the way it is, you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.”

Indeed, you do. There’s no blaming the shoppers who are trying to stretch a dollar to make the holiday season better for their families. There’s no blaming the stores that depend on the Christmas season to make their yearly tallies and must cater to their customers.

So will free enterprise wreck tradition? Maybe not. The early returns suggest that while more people went to the stores, the actual shopping done in the past few days was down. Shopsgiving may have hurt Black Friday, perhaps also Cyber Monday. If that’s the final analysis, market forces may yet please Thanksgiving purists.

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