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Thanksgiving: A Missed Opportunity for CSR

Posted by Lynn Miller on Mon, Nov 28, 2011

For marketers, the focus this Thanksgiving was on Black Friday. Or should we call it Black Thursday? For the first time, some stores started their sales Thanksgiving night. Thousands of Americans skipped Thanksgiving dinner to wait in line for “once in a lifetime” deals, only to learn that the most coveted items were limited to as few as two per store. 

So while sales were up, some big brand names were dragged through the mud. More than 200,000 people signed a petition protesting Target’s decision to open early. Reports of tasering and fights at Walmart made the news.  Online, people lamented the sad state of affairs in Facebook status updates and tweets. 

One retailer that emerged with an enhanced brand reputation was Nordstrom, which has a tradition of refusing to promote holiday sales until after Thanksgiving.  Scores of customers left comments on the Nordstrom Facebook page praising their decision. Some say Nordstrom can afford to take this stance – their affluent customers drove sales up 67% last quarter. Others argue that the Black Thursday  Friday sales actually help working class people by bringing them more of what they want, sooner, and cheaper.

Both may have a point, but honestly, can’t we wait a day?

Yes, there was a huge increase in shopping - but where is that pent-up demand for sales going? Why wouldn't shoppers buy just as readily on Black Friday as on the Thanksgiving holiday itself?   

As a nation, we are stressed to the breaking point by widespread economic and political insecurities.  Thanksgiving -- a time to stop, reflect, and give thanks for all that we have -- might actually bring us some much needed perspective.

And what about those who truly are in need? For months, food banks across the country have reported their struggles to keep up with increased demand from the working poor and the homeless.

Ironically, all of these big retail brands are vying to enhance their corporate reputations with innovative cause marketing campaigns, sustainability reports, and other CSR programs.  It appears that the retailers’ CSR and marketing departments need to connect the dots between the CSR potential of Thanksgiving and the holiday shopping spirit.

 Imagine the headlines if Walmart, or Target, or Macy’s, or Best Buy – or better yet all of them –   closed on Thanksgiving to give their hard working employees a rest before the start of the Christmas rush. How would you, as a consumer feel, about your favorite retail brand if it sponsored Thanksgiving meals at food banks across the country? 

The answer is pretty obvious, isn’t it?



Talk about a missed opportunity for CSR. Next year, I hope America’s leading retailers do better.


Tags: Green Marketing, Sustainability Communications, Public Relations, CSR: Corporate Social Responsibility, Social Media