A K-State expert provides insight into why people enjoy shopping over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend and how they can make the most of their shopping experience.
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MANHATTAN, Kan. – Thanksgiving Day, Black Friday, Cyber Monday and the days in between make the Thanksgiving holiday weekend not only a time for gathering with friends and family, but also a time for retail frenzy in preparation for Christmas and other winter celebrations. And, it seems the stores are opening earlier each year to provide consumers with more shopping choices. One large retailer recently announced it was opening at 6 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day with holiday shopping deals.
The National Retail Federation reported that in 2010, about one in five people who shopped over the holiday weekend shopped on Thanksgiving Day. In 2011, the number was one in four shoppers trying to find deals on Thursday. In 2012, the number was one in three shoppers.
Clearly, more people are getting a jumpstart on holiday shopping, said Elizabeth Kiss, assistant professor and family resource management specialist for K-State Research and Extension. While there are many reasons people flock to stores over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, consumers should plan ahead and create a budget to get the most out of their shopping experience.
Psychology of shopping
While some people don’t like shopping, many people view it as a social and recreational activity. Some people complete their Christmas shopping by July, Kiss said, but most people wait until Thanksgiving and closer to Christmas for the sales.
“I think we all know, especially in the United States, shopping is viewed as a recreational activity,” Kiss said. “We might go with our friends, family members or in a small group. It’s the atmosphere and just being out. Regardless of the time of year, you can get a rush.”
For many people, Kiss said, shopping is part of what they define as the holiday season. It might be a family tradition to shop over the Thanksgiving holiday, or it might be a reason to get out of the house.
“If you think about it, fixing the meal and all the trimmings and the entertainment part of Thanksgiving probably falls on the women of the household,” Kiss said. “And so, on Friday, probably no one needs to eat a big meal. There may be leftovers. There may not have to be a lot of cooking. Why not do something fun, get out of the house and get out of the kitchen?”
Kiss said regardless of gender though, most people have certain expectations and obligations for gift shopping. Finding good deals over the Thanksgiving holiday is something in which many men are interested, too.
“It could be that women do a majority of the shopping, or they might discuss it and facilitate it, but men still are expected to buy gifts, at least for their significant others and maybe their own parents and families,” she said.
As retailers open their doors earlier and earlier, there are indifferent feelings among consumers. While some might believe that hosting sales on the actual Thanksgiving holiday intrudes on family and friend gatherings, some enjoy going to the stores while they’re up and going—and not at midnight or the wee hours of the morning on Black Friday.
Make a plan and a budget
Shopping, Kiss said, is not only recreational but it can be competitive. Many consumers want to be the first to buy a new or popular gadget. Healthy competition is fine, but people shouldn’t feel overwhelmed or stressed.
Planning ahead is important. Kiss said consumers should think about what it is they are planning to buy and ask themselves if the price they encounter is the best price they can get. If the item is a limited quantity, then it might make sense to buy the item early.
“I would really encourage, if you are considering going out over the Thanksgiving holiday, to start looking ahead of time,” Kiss said. “Go into the stores, scope out who has what that you think you might want to buy. Also go online and see what might be available.”
When parents shop for their children, Kiss said the best thing to do is to not make any promises. When parents tell their children they will get them a certain gift, the children will expect it, and this puts pressure on the parents to find and buy that particular gift.
“Parents shouldn’t feel guilty for not getting a particular gift, as long as they haven’t promised it,” Kiss said.
In addition to seeking out items and prices in stores ahead of time, also plan out a budget. Kiss said many consumers get numb and lose their awareness of how much they are spending if a shopping trip lasts several hours.
“It’s so easy to lose track, and then suddenly in January you get a credit card bill or look at your bank statement, and you realize you spent way more than you intended,” Kiss said. “Part of the planning process, in my opinion, is to chunk your shopping so that you focus on maybe buying for one or two people per trip or sit-down event at your computer. Then you walk away, so you don’t get into this zone of buying and buying.”
Other holiday shopping tips
Kiss recommends that shoppers sign up for their favorite retailers’ emails, because many of them offer special discounts and codes, particularly for Cyber Monday—the Monday following Thanksgiving that is a popular day for online shopping sales.
Shoppers should also remember to check the shipping rate and sales tax when ordering online, Kiss said, and make sure online items are delivered to an address where someone will be there to pick it up, whether that person is the shopper or the recipient of the gift.
If stores run out of a particular item, it is always a good idea to be a courteous shopper and don’t hesitate to nicely ask store personnel if they have more of an item in the stock room, or if they plan to get another shipment of the product before Christmas. Some retailers provide the opportunity to order an item and have it delivered to the store, if the item sells out.