Shop till you drop, or just wait?

Martha Pietruszewski

When I was a 16-year-old, I eagerly agreed to wake up early to go shopping on Black Friday. I was unaware of just how many people would be at Target that morning. There were enough of them to make me feel claustrophobic, want to leave and never shop on Black Friday again.

Other shoppers must have shared my sentiment, as Black Friday and Thanksgiving weekend sales fell by 11 percent this year. Big box retail stores like Best Buy need to realize what the rest of the population has realized: Thanksgiving is for friends and family — stores should save the sales for a later date.

That later date could just be Cyber Monday. Online sales actually grew 8.5 percent this year, for a total of $89 billion.

By having the same sales online as in stores, companies eliminate the competitive need to get in line four or five days early to beat the other shoppers to buy that $500 TV. Now, it’s simply a race of who has their credit card nearby.

Alternatively, stores could spread out the sales. Wal-Mart spread its deals out over five days. Target also gave shoppers an early preview for discounts.

Spreading out sales or pushing them back for a few days will also allow families to be families. Instead of rushing through Thanksgiving dinner and dashing off to the stores, families will be able to savor the meal and the time with their in-laws. Arguably, this is what Thanksgiving is all about.

Retailers may not like the idea of pushing sales back, and I understand. Black Friday generates billions of dollars of revenue. It is hard to give up that opportunity. But spreading out the sales or pushing them back could potentially generate even more revenue.

Americans want to shop on their own schedules, not those of stores.