One of the occupational hazards to being an editor is I get inundated with press releases, and the holiday season seems to be the worst time of the year for these things. I’ve been reminded several times already today that omni-channel distribution allows retailers to get closer than ever to their customers, and that any company that understands the spirit of the season will take every opportunity to make sure consumers know about the special deals available to them the moment they interact with one of these technologically-savvy retailers. Is that really all that omni-channel is good for—spamming consumers with promotional spiel over multiple platforms at the same time?
The “holiday season” clearly means different things to different people now, especially marketing and retail types. I saw an empassioned plea for Americans to truly “make a difference” this year. Silly me, I thought it was going to be a suggestion that families get together and work at a soup kitchen or consider visiting a children’s hospital on Thanksgiving. I couldn’t have been more wrong; it was a call to action to spend money at local retailers on Small Business Saturday. I didn’t even know there was such a thing as Small Business Saturday, but apparently it’s been added to the list of holidays, along with Cyber Monday and the most sacred of all shopping days of the year, Black Friday.
Ahhh, but there’s an even newer shopping day that could quickly rival Black Friday as the most hallowed and holy festivities of them all: Brown Thursday. Yes, Brown Thursday. I wish I was making that up, but I’m not. Apparently, so many jokes have been made at the expense of “Brown Thursday” (most of the punchlines involving the color brown being somewhat synonymous with fecal matter) that Those-Who-Coin-Buzzwords are trying to quickly recast Brown Thursday as Gray Thursday. Whatever.
The point is the same no matter what color you use: The day is called Thanksgiving, and the day has absolutely NOTHING to do with waiting in line for hours (or days) in front of a store, deep and steep discounts, or parking lot capacity reports. Thanksgiving is a day set aside for families and friends to spend time together, and that includes families of Walmart, Target, Macy’s, Kmart, Best Buy and all the other retailers who plan to open their doors on Thanksgiving.
Retailers and the media have done us all a tremendous disservice by effectively deleting the life and mission of Jesus Christ from Christmas, and they seem hellbent on similarly removing any notion of “thankfulness” from Thanksgiving. And to what end? Of course, there’s the argument that the retailers are merely acceding to their customers’ wishes, but I reject that premise entirely. I’ve seen no evidence that suggests people would stay away from the brick-and-mortar or online stores if the sales were postponed until after Thanksgiving was completely over (and by over, I mean keep the stores closed until 8 am on Friday—none of this “stores open at 12:01 am Friday” nonsense).
The whole idea of omni-channel is that it’s no longer necessary to stand in long lines at retail stores, and most especially is it wrongheaded to sacrifice the one day in the year when all Americans, no matter what their heritage or religious beliefs, can celebrate within their communities and actually pause for an entire day in a spirit of gratitude. Thanksgiving is not about instant gratification, and it’s not about spending the day driving from store to store to store. It’s literally what the word says it is—a day for giving thanks. So when it comes to the idea of a Brown Thursday, put me down for "Bah, humbug!"