TIME Retail

7 Black Friday Haggling Secrets You Need to Know

Early Black Friday Shopping At A Target Store
Customers pick up shopping carts containing Element Electronics 50-inch light-emitting diode (LED) high definition televisions at a Target Corp. store opening ahead of Black Friday in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., on Thursday, Nov. 28, 2013. Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

Because paying full price is for suckers

If you’re chasing down a hot deal this week, your best bet is knowing the right way to haggle. Consumer Reports says almost nine out of 10 people who haggle over prices are at least somewhat successful.

The magazine surveyed 2,000 savvy shoppers to find out what tricks work best when you’re trying to score a steal. Here’s what they found out, along with some other insider secrets.

Comparison-shop. More than half of successful hagglers say they either tell a salesperson they’re going to check out the competition’s prices or just go ahead and scout different stores for better prices, and 42% arm themselves with circulars or coupons from competitors. With predictions about how well retailers will fare this holiday season all over the map, it’s obvious that stores will be paying very close attention to prices, and the customers who force merchants to compete on price will be the winners.

Be nice. More than four in 10 survey respondents found that friendliness is the ticket to a bargain-basement price, with 43% saying they chat up the salesperson and try to form a connection before hitting them up for a discount.

Find out what others paid. Using social media to your advantage can pay off. Almost 40% of hagglers say they scope out user reviews to find out what other people have paid for the items on their wish lists.

Don’t be bashful. Haggling isn’t just for car dealerships and furniture stores; here’s a list of situations when you should go into a transaction with the mindset that the list price is just a starting point.

Talk a good game. Consumer Reports says another way successful hagglers chip away at prices is by telling a story that turns the negotiation into a dialogue: Give them a sob story, show them how much you understand about what you’re buying, argue that a blemish lowers the item’s value or ask an open-ended question like, “How can you help me out?” That puts the ball in the salesperson’s court.

Know when to shut up. Talk about silence literally being golden: Negotiating expert Steven Cohen tells Consumer Reports a well-placed pause in the conversation can throw a salesperson off their game just a little bit and make them work harder to win your business.

Check out these tips. Negotiating experts tell TIME which tricks they keep up their sleeves when they want a better deal.

MONEY Shopping

12% of Black Friday Shoppers Will Be Drunk (and More Crazy Facts About the Holiday Frenzy)

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Shoppers wait to enter the Aeropostale store in Tyson's Corner, Virginia during 'Midnight Madness' at the Tyson's Corner Center in Tyson's Corner, Virginia.. Tyson's Corner Center is the largest shopping center in the Washington, DC area. Karen Bleier—AFP/Getty Images

How many people will go shopping this weekend? What day actually has the best deals? How much will the average shopper spend? How many of them are tipsy while they're browsing for gifts?

Read on for answers to the above, as well as other nuggets about what’s in store for consumers during the annual Thanksgiving-Black Friday weekend shopping extravaganza.

Less Than 5% The average discount on Black Friday for 6,000 items tracked last year by the deal-hunting site ShopAdvisor; researchers found that the average discount during the holiday period was highest on December 18 (17.5%).

5 Number of hours that RadioShack will shut down on Thanksgiving (noon to 5 p.m.); it had originally planned to stay open from 8 a.m. to midnight, but decided to close during the middle of the day after receiving complaints from employees.

10 Number of employees at a Virginia Best Buy whose sole job is to restock items as soon as there are gaps on store shelves on Black Friday.

12% Proportion of Thanksgiving Day shoppers who admit to hitting the stores on the holiday while under the influence of alcohol, according to a survey conducted on the behalf of the coupon site RetailMeNot.

16% vs. 50% Respectively, the percentages of shoppers ages 55+ and 18 to 24 and who think it’s “a great idea” for stores to be open on Thanksgiving.

22 Number of days before Black Friday that two women in California began camping out at a Best Buy in order to be first in line for deals. They hope to buy a cheap TV.

25% Amount of extra trash thrown away by Americans during the Thanksgiving-New Year’s period, compared to any other time of the year.

28% vs. 32% Percentages of women and men, respectively, who plan on spending $250 to $500 on Black Friday (yes, more guys than girls).

At Least 3 Dozen Number of national retailers, including Costco, Bloomingdale’s, Dillard’s, and Nordstrom, that have decided to stay closed on Thanksgiving.

38% Percentage of shoppers who plan on purchasing holiday gifts with credit cards, up from 28.5% last year and the highest level recorded since the National Retail Federation has asked the question in surveys.

39% Proportion of Americans who feel pressured to spend more than they can afford during the holiday season.

42 Number of consecutive hours that Kmart stores will be open, starting at 6 a.m. on Thanksgiving and lasting through midnight on Black Friday.

70% Percentage of consumers who say that stores should be closed on Thanksgiving this year, up from 60% in 2012.

70% Percentage of consumers who say that Black Friday is meaningless because “there will be more sales throughout the holidays.”

71% Percentage of consumers who say they may not like the gift they receive over the holidays.

96% Percentage of consumers who say that discounts are important to their shopping decisions during the holidays, up from 94% last year—and three in ten say that they’ll hold out for discounts of 50% or more before making a purchase.

$407 Average amount spent by consumers over Thanksgiving weekend in 2013, down 4% compared to the year before.

$450 Minimum you must spend at one of two malls in southern California in order to receive a free Uber ride home, starting on Black Friday and stretching through Christmas Eve.

140 Million Estimated number of consumers who will shop in stores or online this weekend, according to the National Retail Federation, roughly the same as the expectations leading into the 2013 Thanksgiving-Black Friday period.

 

MONEY Shopping

7 Things to Know About Thanksgiving Shopping Boycotts

Dillards retail department store.
Dillards retail department store. Jim Parkin—Alamy

Hundreds of thousands of Americans are up in arms about stores like Walmart and Target being open on Thanksgiving. What kind of impact will their protests have?

Like it or hate it, Thanksgiving shopping is a growing trend, and based on the crowds of consumers that will surely show up to browse and buy on the holiday, it’s a tradition that is likely here to stay. Here’s a deeper look at which stores are open, which are closed, and why, as well as the campaigns being waged around the country to try to keep Thanksgiving as a sacred, family-first, non-shopping day.

Dozens of national retailer won’t open on Thanksgiving. While stores like J.C. Penney, Walmart, Toys R Us, Kmart, and Best Buy are opening on Thanksgiving and trying to attract the masses with some seemingly terrific deals, at least three dozen other national retailers have vowed to remain closed on the holiday. The Boycott Black Thursday and the Boycott Shopping on Thanksgiving Facebook pages, as well as other Thanksgiving shopping haters are encouraging consumers to support the stores that aren’t opening on the holiday by shopping with them later in the season. Among those staying closed on Thanksgiving are:

Academy Sports + Outdoors
A.C. Moore
American Girl
Barnes & Noble
Bed, Bath & Beyond
BJ’s
Bloomingdale’s
Burlington Coat Factory
Cabela’s
Christopher & Banks
Costco
Crate & Barrel
Dillard’s
DSW
GameStop
Hobby Lobby
Home Depot
Home Goods
JoAnne
Lowe’s
Marshalls
Men’s Wearhouse
Menards
Neiman Marcus
Nordstrom
Orvis
Patagonia
P.C. Richard
PetCo
PetSmart
REI
Saks Fifth Avenue
Sam’s Club
Talbots
T.J. Maxx
Von Maur

Also, let’s not overlook all of the small businesses that wouldn’t even consider opening up for shopping on Thanksgiving.

Some stores say they’re staying closed on principle. A statement released to the press from TJX, the company that owns Marshalls, Home Goods, and T.J. Maxx, makes a point of it being an “associate-friendly” business that is “pleased to give our associates the time to enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday with family and friends.” Similarly, Costco explained its decision to stay closed on the holiday this way: “Our employees work especially hard during the holiday season and we simply believe that they deserve the opportunity to spend Thanksgiving with their families. Nothing more complicated than that.”

The not-so-subtle message being sent is that these retailers care about their workers, their workers’s families, and families in general. The implicit flip side is that stores that are opening on Thanksgiving should be shamed because their decisions to open on Thanksgiving demonstrate they don’t care as much about their employees or about American traditions and family.

Other closures seem a matter of practicality. “We’re not a high-volume, low-margin business,” Neiman Marcus spokeswoman Ginger Reeder, told the Wall Street Journal last year when the topic of Thanksgiving store hours arose. “We’re not trying to make some statement. It’s better for us to be closed.” The same line of thinking applies to other upscale retailers that aren’t opening on the holiday, such as Saks Fifth Avenue and Nordstrom. It’s a no-brainer for these stores to stay closed on Thanksgiving because it wouldn’t be a big money-making day anyway. “Thanksgiving promotions are about necessities that are marked down,” Neiman Marcus’s Reeder explained to the Los Angeles Times recently. “It’s just not a part of what we do.”

Likewise, as the Detroit Free Press columnist Georgea Kovanis pointed out, JoAnn, Home Depot, and many of other stores that will stay closed “aren’t generally known for their door busters … where people stand in line, waiting to pounce on dirt cheap large screen televisions or Lego kits.” Surely, stores like Sam’s Club, which is owned by Walmart—open 24/7 even on Thanksgiving—would open on the holiday if the higher-ups thought it would be worthwhile. So before going out of your way to support stores for remaining closed on Thanksgiving, consider Kovanis’s observation: “It’s not difficult to sit out the World Series or Super Bowl when you were never in the game to begin with.”

Boycotters are focused on shoppers as much as retailers. While boycott organizers and petitioners are actively spreading the word about stores that are ruining Thanksgiving by forcing employees to work—especially ones like Kmart, which is opening early in the morning on the holiday—they’re also targeting consumers who are giving stores a reason to open when they go shopping on the day. “We really just want to encourage people to stay home on Thanksgiving,” Brian Rich, the creator of the Boycott Black Thursday Facebook page, explained to his hometown Idaho Statesman. “If we can eliminate the demand for shopping on Thanksgiving, retailers will go back to staying closed. Retail employees can be at home with their families, and that’s really the ultimate goal we’re pushing for with this movement.”

Recently, a group of protesters at a “ProThanks” rally outside of a mall in Michigan also was simultaneously imploring stores to reconsider their decisions to open on Thanksgiving and asking shoppers to consider staying home. “Our hope is that we can make other people conscious that their choices do affect other people,” one protester said, noting that consumers who go shopping on Thanksgiving give stores a reason to be open—and a reason to force employees to work that day.

Thanksgiving hours don’t necessarily boost sales. Obviously, stores that are open on Thanksgiving boost sales for the day—because they’d otherwise be closed and making no in-person sales. But the idea that opening on Thanksgiving boosts overall sales for the holiday period is dubious. Analysts are quick to point out that retailers “risk cannibalizing” sales by opening on Thanksgiving. The sales transactions that occur that day would otherwise probably be made on Friday, or later in the season, and the net sales change is likely to be zero. A big reason why Black Friday sales have declined in recent years is because stores have been expanding sales earlier and earlier into Thanksgiving.

Retailers feel forced to match the competition. The most promotion-driven retailers—Walmart, Target, Kmart, J.C. Penney, Best Buy, etc.—are constantly trying to beat the rest of the pack to the sale. They’re all battling for the business of shoppers with limited holiday shopping budgets, and so it’s essential to get their money before it’s spent elsewhere. This is why price-matching policies are proliferating, and why early Black Friday sales are popping up earlier and earlier. And it’s a big reason why stores are opening on Thanksgiving: They’re scared that if they stay closed, they’ll be losing business to the competition.

The impact of boycotts will probably be minimal. Even if only a very small portion of consumers goes shopping on Thanksgiving—11% are interested, according to one survey—that represents tens of millions of shoppers heading to the mall. And that’s more than enough justification for retailers to open their doors on the holiday.

As for consumer boycotts of Thanksgiving shopping, “In terms of overall holiday shopping impact, there is none. Zero,” Richard Feinberg, a computer science and retail professor at Purdue University, said this week in the South Bend Tribune. “Even if people did not go out (Thanksgiving weekend), they would not boycott any store that they said they would boycott in the weeks to follow, with the many great sales available. And the people who really do boycott a store are just as likely to shop online during the time they are boycotting.”

MONEY Shopping

Barbie Is No Longer the Most Popular Girl at the Toy Store

Disney Frozen Snow Glow Elsa and Disney Frozen Sparkle Doll
Anthony Harvey—Getty Images

Princesses Elsa and Anna will now share the crown

For the first time in over a decade, Barbie is no longer the most popular girls’ toy of the holiday season, the National Retail Federation reports. This year, that honor will go to the stars of Disney’s blockbuster movie Frozen, princesses Elsa and Anna.

One in five parents say they plan to buy Elsa and Anna merchandise for their daughters, the NRF’s survey found. Just 16.8% plan to buy Barbie dolls.

“It is no surprise that Disney’s Frozen has taken the top seat as children have had it on the mind as far back as Halloween,” saidPam Goodfellow, consumer insights director at Prosper Insights & Analytics.

MORE: The new “normal” Barbie comes with an average woman’s measurements—and optional stretch marks

For decades, critics have suggested that Barbie dolls promote negative body image and sexist stereotypes. Disney’s Frozen, on the other hand, has been praised for its strong female leads.

The latest reason some parents might prefer the Frozen sisters? Controversy over Barbie’s career. In a recent book, Barbie: I Can Be a Computer Engineer, Barbie was portrayed as an incompetent worker who needed boys’ help with everything. VP of Barbie’s Global Brand Marketing Lori Pantel told TIME that the book was published in 2010 and that “since that time we have reworked our Barbie books.”

For now, Elsa is queen. Barbie’s just going to have to let it go.

Related:

MONEY deals

Black Friday Is Already Here

A "Black Friday" advertisement for Walmart is seen on an iPad in Annapolis, Maryland November 16, 2014.
A "Black Friday" advertisement for Walmart is seen on an iPad in Annapolis, Maryland November 16, 2014. "Black Friday" is coming early this year to retailers. Jim Watson—AFP/Getty Images

Based on the big discounts already in effect at Walmart, Target, Amazon, Gap, Staples, and plenty of other retailers, it looks like Black Friday sales are well underway.

Many people are upset that dozens of national retailers have decided to launch Black Friday sales on Thanksgiving, thereby ruining the holiday for workers who can’t spend the day with their families—and also ruining the day for families whose shopping-crazed relatives will ditch them for the chance to score cheap tablets, TVs, and fast fashion at the mall. (According to surveys, millennials are particularly likely to go shopping on Thanksgiving rather than continue hanging out at home once dinner is done.)

But based on the proliferation of broad, often substantial discounts that invoke the phrase “Black Friday” days or even a full week before the actual day arrives, it appears as if Black Friday sales are in effect right now. Deal-tracking sites such as TheBlackFriday.com have rounded up long lists of retailers that have already tried to grab shoppers’ attention by launching big holiday sales under names like “Pre-Black Friday Deals,” “Black Friday All Week Long Sale,” and “Cyber Monday Now.”

One week before Black Friday, Amazon kicked off its Black Friday Deals Week, throughout the course of which the world’s largest e-retailer is adding new deals as often as every 10 minutes. Likewise, Walmart launched a “Pre-Black Friday Event” on Friday, November 21, with lots of prices that seem on par with Black Friday’s best bargains: LED TVs for under $150, tablets starting at $40, two-packs of women’s fleece pants for $8, and so on. Similarly, Staples is trying to woo shoppers early with 50% off select merchandise and an array of quirky coupons (a flat $100 off many tablets, laptops, and desk-tops), and Target, Lowes, Sears, and many others are advertising some variation of “Pre-Black Friday” or “Black Friday Now” deals.

Some across-the-board online discounts—the kind normally offered on Cyber Monday—have also surfaced this week, such as 30% off everything at Lands’ End, on top of another 40% off shoes and slippers. On Monday, Gap introduced a sale on denim and cords for $25 and under (normally priced up to $70), on the heels of a 50% off all online purchases (for Gap card members) on Sunday.

The early sales shouldn’t come as a surprise considering the overarching trend of retailers attempting to expand the holiday shopping season and grab consumers’ limited gift-purchasing dollars before their competitors can. Kmart launched its first holiday ad in September, and many studies show that the best deals aren’t on Black Friday necessarily, but can appear weeks before or after Thanksgiving weekend, thanks to retailers’ strategic efforts to boost sales during lulls.

An Adweek story quotes several retail experts of the opinion that “Black Friday” basically occupies all of November nowadays, or at least that Black Friday-type sales appear on the scene earlier and earlier each year:

“We definitely see retailers pushing Black Friday earlier than ever,” said Sara Al-Tukhaim, director of retail insights for Kantar Retail. “This concept of Black Friday is just getting stretched out more” and becoming “more blurry.”

Bear in mind that not all of these early deals are worth getting excited about. The Disney Store rolled out what it’s calling its Black Magical Friday Sale on Friday, November 21, with discounts “up to 40% off,” but most of the deals—16″ dolls for $20 (originally $24.95), play sets from Star Wars, Monsters University, and Toy Story for $10 (originally $12.95)—seem like run-of-the-mill sales, not can’t-pass-up bargains. What’s more, some of the best early Black Friday deals seem all but impossible to buy. For example, Walmart advertised the Skylanders Trap Team Starter Kit for Wii U over the weekend priced at $37 (full price around $75), but it has been out of stock for online orders and isn’t available at most stores either.

To sum up, right now many stores have some genuinely terrific, Black Friday-esque bargains. But many of the advertised deals aren’t all that impressive, and the biggest discounts generally apply only to select merchandise and may not actually be available for purchase. In other words, retailers are already using amazing discounts and other tricks to get shoppers into stores—where the hope is that they’ll buy plenty of lightly-discounted or full-price items while they’re browsing. This is the gist of how and why retailers use Black Friday as a sales-boosting tactic in the first place, and it’s a strategy that is indeed well underway.

MONEY Leisure

Great Ways to Spend Black Friday Not at the Mall

One of the contraptions. The 16th Annual Friday After Thanksgiving Chain Reaction Event held at MIT, featuring 34 teams and their Rube Goldberg machines.
One of the contraptions. The 16th Annual Friday After Thanksgiving Chain Reaction Event held at MIT, featuring 34 teams and their Rube Goldberg machines. Jonathan Wiggs—Boston Globe via Getty Images

Who says you must go shopping on Black Friday? Here's a roundup of suggestions for fun, worthwhile events that take place on the notoriously crazed shopping day—but don't involve shopping at all.

It’s understandable if you plan to steer clear of the mall on November 28, a.k.a. the day after Thanksgiving, a.k.a. Black Friday. A confusing, contradictory string of consumer polls suggests that “only” 11%, or perhaps as many as 28% of Americans will physically go shopping in stores on the day. Even if the true figure is at the low end of the spectrum, it’ll still mean millions and millions of people clogging shopping centers across the land. The National Retail Federation estimated that 141 individual consumers made shopping purchases last year during the Thanksgiving weekend. The majority of the purchases were made in person (not online), and as expected, Black Friday was the weekend’s biggest day for sales.

The point is that there are literally millions and millions of reasons why you might want to consider not going to the mall on Friday. Add in the fact that deal-tracking experts argue that smart shoppers should probably skip Black Friday because, with the exception of a few amazing-but-limited doorbuster deals, stores don’t have their best prices this day, and we’re left with one overarching but illogical reason why people are compelled to shop on the day: They go not in spite of the crowds and the crazed, competitive atmosphere but because of it. In certain circles, Black Friday is considered the “Super Bowl” of shopping, or a “blood sport” of consumerism if you will, and there are shoppers out there who can’t pass up the action—even if it ruins Thanksgiving because Black Friday now starts on Thursday for most national retailers.

In any event, if you decide to not go shopping on Black Friday, congratulations. You pass the sanity test. But just because you sit Black Friday out in terms of shopping doesn’t mean you have to sit at home the whole day. Here are some suggestions for the day that don’t involve elbowing a desperate mom out of the way to get the last cheap TV or video game console in a store:

Parades and Holiday Lights
Portland (OR), Seattle, Estes Park at Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park, and San Antonio are among the many spots that traditionally host parades on the day after Thanksgiving. The latter is a nighttime floating parade that spectators view from San Antonio’s River Walk (tickets are necessary), and the elaborate floats feature tens of thousands of lights. Black Friday is also the day that the flip is switched on for the season for holiday light displays in places such as Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo.

Coat Exchanges
In honor of Buy Nothing Day, an anti-consumerism event timed to coincide with Black Friday, charity organizers launched a coat exchange years ago on the day in Rhode Island. Nowadays, coats are gathered and given away all over the state on Black Friday, and similar coat exchange programs have popped up in Utah, Kentucky, and Indiana.

Museums (and Drinks!)
Museums around the country give visitors extra reason to absorb some culture and knowledge—both in short supply at the nation’s malls—with special events and discounts on Black Friday. For instance, Miami’s Frost Museum of Science has two-for-one admissions on November 28, while from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. the Oakland Museum of California waives admission for kids and offers half-price entrance and drink specials in the beer garden for those of age. In Milwaukee, the Harley-Davidson Museum is hosting its third annual Black Friday Beerfest, with samples from dozens of craft brewers on hand.

F.A.T. Chain Reaction
Every year, an inventive, entertaining, and admittedly geeky event called the Friday After Thanksgiving (F.A.T.) Chain Reaction takes place in the Boston area at the MIT campus. Teams of kids come with elaborate Rube Goldberg/better mousetrap creations made with any materials of their choosing that, like dominos, set off a wild chain reaction of moving pieces that takes between 30 seconds and three minutes to complete. In the end, each team’s creation is linked together in a giant chain reaction to delight the crowd. Tickets are $5 for children ages 5 to 17, and $15 for adults at the door ($12.50 in advance).

Live Sports
We all know that the NFL is the dominant sport for Thanksgiving Day. The day after, however, has increasingly become a hot day for the other two major pro sports being played right now: A dozen NBA games take place on Black Friday 2014 (including a 1 p.m. tipoff of the Chicago Bulls versus the host Boston Celtics), and three of the 11 NHL games scheduled for Friday get underway during family-friendly afternoon times. Plenty of college football games kick off around the country on Friday, November 28, as well.

 

TIME Saving & Spending

The Disastrous Black Friday Mistake You Must Avoid

Money in jeans pocket
Image Source—Getty Images

Shop smarter—or else pay for the consequences

Going into the holiday season with a budget is a good start, but it might not be good enough. A new study shows that misestimating how much of a deal they’ll get on Black Friday and underestimating how long it will take them to pay off their holiday splurges will cost American shoppers.

According to the National Retail Federation, the average holiday shopper spent a little less than $770 last year. It predicts a total increase in Americans’ holiday spending of just over 4% for this year.

But shoppers could find themselves with sticker shock, a new study from NerdWallet.com warns. And middle-class shoppers could bear the brunt of it. According to a survey conducted by Harris Poll for NerdWallet, families in the $50,000 to $75,000 income bracket won’t pay off their debts for an average of nearly three months. Poorer families will pay off their debts a little more quickly, in an average of two months.

Odds are, even these estimations are optimistic. Other studies show that people tend to take longer to pay off their holiday bills than they anticipate. And, odds are, many of these shoppers aren’t starting from scratch but adding onto an existing balance — one that averages nearly $16,000, based on NerdWallet’s look at household credit card debt.

And the cost of servicing that debt keeps going up. The average APR on a general-use credit card is a tick under 16%, according to Bankrate.com. For store cards — you know, the kind many of us open over the holidays to get the one-day discount on purchases — it’s even higher. They have an average APR of over 23%, higher if you have marginal credit.

New data from Experian shows that more of us are signing up for those store cards and the higher rates they charge; both the amount we borrow and the number of cards we have has risen over the past year.

“Middle-class households can fall into a costly situation this holiday season, where they’ve been extended ample credit but have incomes too thin to comfortably pay the bills later,” warns NerdWallet senior retail analyst Matthew Ong. “Many are still struggling to reconcile a typically middle-class standard of living with stagnant incomes,” he says.

Adding insult to injury, NerdWallet also finds that those Black Friday deals many of us think we’re going to score might not be so hot after all.

In an analysis of 27 major retailers’ ads, more than 90% of them listed “sale” prices identical to last year’s Black Friday prices. This isn’t always apparent at a quick glance; the site found that retailers use tricks like misleading original prices and make shoppers jump through hoops like requiring mail-in rebates.

Vote Now: Who Should Be TIME’s Person of the Year?

MONEY Shopping

Are Millennials to Blame for Stores Being Open on Thanksgiving?

millennial shoppers window shopping
Mireya Acierto—FilmMagic

Retailers say they're open on Thanksgiving because that's what customers want. But one age group in particular is more than happy to leave the dinner table and go shopping on Turkey Day.

Yes, it’s the millennials—the Baby Boomer offspring demographic whose consumer behavior is analyzed ad nauseum by marketers—who say they’re plenty game for shopping on Thanksgiving.

According to one national survey from the loyalty marketing and customer analytics firm LoyaltyOne, only one-third of the overall population thinks that “stores being open all day Thanksgiving is a great idea.” However, roughly half of those ages 18 to 24 say it’s “great” for stores to be open on the national holiday, while 48% of consumers ages 25 to 34 are also on board with the idea. Among folks ages 55 and up, by contrast, only 16% think all-day store hours on Thanksgiving is a wonderful idea.

Another recent poll, conducted by IPSOS for Offers.com, yielded similar results, in which millennials are more likely than other generations to say they’ll be shopping this Thanksgiving. Two-thirds of those ages 18 to 34 say they plan to shop on the holiday—in store, online, or both—compared to 51% of consumers ages 35 to 54 and only 30% of the 55+ category.

So it would seem as if all of the retailers that insist on being open on Thanksgiving are doing so to an outsized degree to play up to millennials, the all-important shopping demographic that’s 80 million strong and expected to account for 30% of all retail sales by 2020. Following this idea through, if the hundreds of thousands of Americans who hate the idea of consumerism encroaching on Thanksgiving and have pledged to not shop on the holiday are looking for something to blame other than plain old greed on the part of retailers, it would be easy to point the finger at millennials. After all, as many “Black Thursday” boycotters have pointed out, the stores wouldn’t be open on Thanksgiving if no one showed up to shop that day.

And yet, it’s much too simple to say that if it wasn’t for millennials, the stores being shamed for Thanksgiving Day hours would see the light and remain closed that day. For one thing, a broader look at millennial consumer behavior shows that a big reason this group is eager to jump on board with shopping on Thanksgiving is that young people like the idea of shopping pretty much every day. Other studies show that millennials are four times more likely to shop on Black Friday than their Baby Boomer parents, and that millennials have the highest percentage of any generation that will be shopping on Cyber Monday as well.

Add in that millennials are less likely to have families or own homes, and so therefore they’re less likely than older groups to host Thanksgiving or feel like the day must remain a sacred one devoted exclusively to family time. If anything, many members of Gen Y—who have always lived in a world with 24/7 access to shopping and deals, thanks to Amazon.com and e-retail—are probably more than ready to ditch their families for some portion of Thanksgiving when the day’s sales beckon. At some point, the small talk with Aunt Myrtle grows stale.

Of course, millennials are hardly the only ones who will be deserting the family dinner table before dessert is served in order to go shopping on Thanksgiving. What’s more, some of what might be perceived as anti-family, anti-Thanksgiving sentiment on the behalf of millennials can be explained by how survey questions are asked. In yet another holiday consumer poll, 77% of Americans ages 18 to 39 said that “retail stores should not be open on Thanksgiving Day so that employees can enjoy time with their friends and family.”

When the issue is raised this way—with the focus on employees who might be forced to work on the holiday—it’s clear that the vast majority of millennials don’t want to see Thanksgiving ruined for American families. On the other hand, millennials more so than other age groups appear to like the idea of shopping on Thanksgiving at least partly because they don’t want to be stuck for the whole day with families of their own.

MONEY Food & Drink

These Coffees Want To Be the Christmas Version of the Pumpkin Spice Latte

Seasonal drinks from Dunkin Donuts
Jim Scherer

Can the pumpkin spice latte phenomenon be repeated, only in winter? Starbucks, Dunkin' Donuts, and others hope so—and they're heaping on sugar, ginger, cinnamon, and chestnut flavors into new drinks to make it happen.

It’s no wonder coffee chains are trying to replicate the retail magic that appears annually in the form of autumn’s onslaught of pumpkin spice beverages. A hot seasonal beverage is proven to juice sales big time. To milk the PSL (Pumpkin Spice Latte) frenzy even more, Starbucks rolled out the beverage earlier than usual this past summer in many parts of the country, and it boosted sales to the surprise of no one.

Peppermint, which is known to increase physiological arousal and heightens alertness, has been a popular flavor in holiday season beverages, and Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, McDonald’s, and 7-Eleven, among many others, are bringing peppermint-laced hot drinks back to their winter menus. But the new holiday beverages go far beyond a mere minty twist, with chestnut, cinnamon, gingerbread, sugar cookie, and other sickly sweet flavors providing the rush. (Perhaps that puzzlingly catchy Def Leppard song was really about holiday season coffees?)

When done right, a hot seasonal beverage succeeds for the seller two-fold by 1) drawing in customers early and often, at least partially because any limited-time offer won’t be around forever and people don’t want to miss out; and 2) getting customers to pay more than usual for their caffeine fix. As NPD Group analyst Bonnie Riggs explained of all unique coffee beverages, customers “expect to pay a premium because the specialty drinks … are not something they can replicate at home or easily get at retail.”

All of which helps explain why Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, and others have introduced these new contenders for the 2014 winter season:

Starbucks Chestnut Praline Latte
In the same way that pumpkin spice has come to be the dominant, most eagerly anticipated flavor of fall, Starbucks is hoping its brand-new Chestnut Praline Latte becomes inextricably tied to the winter holiday season. “The rich, earthy, sweet, roastiness of chestnut is a perfect foil to espresso. Then we balanced the nutty chestnut flavor with brown sugar and spice,” Starbucks research and development manager Amy Dilger said of the new latte, which is the company’s first new holiday beverage in five years. “It’s a quintessential flavor of the holiday season.”

To get customers to sample the goods early in the season, Starbucks is having a buy-one, get-one-free special on holiday drinks, from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. through November 16.

Dunkin’ Donuts Sugar Cookie Latte
Less than a week after Halloween, Dunkin’ Donuts introduced its lineup of sugary winter beverages, including two cookie-flavored lattes: the Sugar Cookie Latte and the Snickerdoodle Latte. They’re both available in hot or cold varieties, as is Dunkin’s Peppermint Mocha, which is back again this holiday season.

Caribou Coffee Gingersnap Cookie Mocha
With “hints of ginger, allspice and clove,” the Gingersnap Cookie Mocha from Caribou Coffee is trying to make its case as the hot caffeinated beverage of the season. Previous seasonal brews also are returning to Caribou’s menu, including the Ho Ho Mint Mocha and special Reindeer Blend coffee—and thank goodness the latter is false advertising. (The coffee contains no real reindeer ingredients, but does have “a hint of caramel and a dash of spice.”)

Peet’s Cinnamon Hazelnut Latte
Peet’s is bringing back holiday beverages such as the Sea Salt Caramel Mocha, Eggnog Latte, and Winter Solstice Tea, while also introducing a new seasonal beverage, the Cinnamon Hazelnut Latte. Follow the link for a coupon granting a free small seasonal beverage with the purchase of any food item, now through November 26.

MONEY Shopping

Walmart Pumps Up Black Friday and Thanksgiving Deals

Employees wear Santa hats as customers check out at a Wal-Mart Stores Inc. location ahead of Black Friday in Los Angeles, California, U.S., on Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2013.
A scene at Los Angeles-area Walmart the week before Thanksgiving and Black Friday 2013. Patrick T. Fallon—Bloomberg via Getty Images

"New Black Friday" is the term being used by Walmart for its Black Friday promotions—which actually start on Thanksgiving and last for five days.

On Tuesday, Walmart held a press conference to introduce what it’s calling the “New Black Friday.” Per the ongoing retail trend, the Black Friday sales start on Thanksgiving Thursday, and they’re hardly limited to a single day. “This year, we’re blowing it out with five days of deals in store and online,” Walmart chief merchandising officer Duncan Mac Naughton said. “We’ll have crazy low prices on the gifts our customers want.”

First things first: Is there anything really “new” about Walmart launching Black Friday deals on Thanksgiving, or about having sales stretch from Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday? On both accounts, the answer is no.

Last year, Walmart’s Black Friday included a staggered series of doorbuster deals, with some available at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving, others starting a couple hours later, and still others taking effect early on Friday morning. What’s more, Walmart and other retailers began trickling out pre-Black Friday sales the weekend before Thanksgiving if not earlier, plenty of other deals were available over the entire five-day Thanksgiving-Cyber Monday period, and the majority of these sale prices could be purchased online or in stores for the same exact price.

And guess what? This year, it’s essentially the same story. The hours have been tweaked for the 2014 version—special deals are available at 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving, then more starting at 6 a.m. the next morning—but it’s basically been the same plan since 2012.

On the one hand, spreading what are supposedly the best holiday sales out over five days—or, let’s face it, over the course of two full months—might make you wonder why it’s necessary to go shopping at all on a day traditionally devoted to family time rather than mall time. Walmart may hope that you physically go shopping in its stores on all five of those days, but that doesn’t mean you have to play along, especially not when the online option is available.

The traditional retail playbook for Black Friday featured a limited number of low-price “loss-leader” doorbuster deals that drew in the masses. Whether they were actually able to get hold of one of the few ultra-cheap items or not, these customers tended to shop for other merchandise while they were in the stores. Walmart has tried to eliminate some of the bait-and-switch involved in this tactic with a 1-Hour Guarantee, in which shoppers are assured they’ll get the doorbuster they want if they’re lined up at least one hour before the sale price is available. Yet overall, the strategy remains unchanged: Attract customers with what seem like amazing deals on select items, then cash in when these customers buy all sorts of things—some on sale, some at full price, and collectively very profitable.

With five days of deals, Walmart could have decided that its best doorbuster bargains would be available starting on Friday or Saturday—or any day other than Thanksgiving. But that’s not what the world’s biggest retailer has done. Like Target, Best Buy, and many others, Walmart is rolling out what seem to be its best deals on Thanksgiving itself, including a 50″ LED TV for $218 and kids’ “Frozen” pajamas for $4.50. There’s nothing stopping Walmart and other retailers from launching these kinds of sales on, say, the Saturday before Thanksgiving. Instead, they’re going with Thanksgiving, and because many of the very best deals are available in-store only, consumers who want to take advantage can’t stay home with their families and make purchases in front of a screen of their choice.

On the other hand, the season’s best prices don’t necessarily pop up on Thanksgiving or Black Friday, and, with the exception of a relatively small number of in-store-only doorbusters, the vast majority of deals are indeed available for web shoppers. As a dealnews post pointed out:

Data from previous years has shown that up to 70% of in-store Black Friday deals were also available online for the same price — or less! Because online sites, namely Amazon, will price match even the hottest in-store offers from brick-and-mortar retailers like Best Buy, Target, and Walmart, many feel pressure to release deals online as well.

The takeaway for consumers should be that it’s okay—more than okay—to stay home on Thanksgiving, and then to sleep in and stay home the following day as well. Yes, you might miss out on a select few deals by doing so. But hey, it’s really not that big of a deal.

 

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