Thanksgivukkah: Will It Help Or Hurt Holiday Sales?

With two holidays falling on the same day and a shorter holiday shopping season, business owners will have to pull out the stops to generate sales. Here are 4 things to consider.
November 15, 2013

This year, in an event that won’t occur again for 70,000 years, the first day of Hanukkah and Thanksgiving fall on the same day, November 28. If you’re not Jewish, you might think you don’t need to worry about this—but if you’re a retailer hoping for hot holiday sales, you do.

The retail calendar was already squeezed this year. Last year’s holiday spending season (the time between Black Friday and Christmas) was 32 days—or five weekends—long. But Thanksgiving is late this year, leaving just 26 days—or four weekends—for the shopping season. Add in economic uncertainty left over from the recent government shutdown, and you’ve got a recipe for retail anxiety.

Will the Thanksgiving/Hanukkah overlap (dubbed "Thanksgivukkah," it has several spellings and its own Facebook page, not to mention Thanksgivukkah T-shirts) help or hinder retailers? Opinions are mixed. Marketwatch speculated the short season will hurt retailers, but some retail experts believe Thanksgivukkah could give retailers an excuse to start holiday promotions earlier than ever without facing a consumer backlash.

Prepping For The Big Day

It remains to be seen how it will all shake out, but here are four suggestions for making the most of Thanksgivukkah:

Adjust your operating hours and staffing needs. With fewer days and hours for shoppers to take advantage of, opening your doors earlier and staying open later will be more important than ever. Plan now so you can staff appropriately and also let your customers know about your extended hours.

Target Hanukkah shoppers. Hanukkah tradition requires giving gifts on each of its eight nights. Will Jewish consumers start shopping early (the holiday starts before Black Friday and Small Business Saturday) or wait until the last minute (to take advantage of deals)? Hedge your bets by catering to both shopping approaches.

If you live in an area with a large Jewish population, consider tying some of your Hanukkah promotions and gift suggestions to the Thanksgivukkah theme. Depending on your business, you could offer Thanksgivukkah-themed products (find some on Zazzle, Etsy and Mouth). However, be careful not to discount products before you need to—after all, Hanukkah straddles Black Friday. Or you could create your own “Black Friday” promotions before the holiday for Hanukkah shoppers.

Be aggressive. The shorter shopping season could actually be a positive force by reminding shoppers (whether they celebrate Hanukkah or not) of the limited time they have to purchase the gifts on their list. Your marketing messages, subject lines and social media outreach should create a sense of urgency among shoppers. “Beat the holiday rush,” “There’s still time to …” and “It’s not too late to …” are all effective phrases in motivating shoppers. 

Be respectful. It’s important not to trivialize Hanukkah in your marketing efforts, especially when tying it in to Thanksgivukkah. Some shoppers may appreciate a humorous approach, while others might be offended. You know best what your audience will appreciate, so keep them in mind when crafting your holiday ads.

Should your store offer Thanksgiving hours? While last year only discounters like Target opened on Thanksgiving Day evening, this year some department stores, including JCPenney, Kohl’s and Macy’s, are doing so. According to Accenture’s 2013 Holiday Shopping Survey, more than one-third (38 percent) of consumers are planning to shop on Thanksgiving Day (that includes online shoppers). Of that 38 percent, 41 percent say they'll physically be out shopping between 6 p.m. Thanksgiving Day and 5 a.m. on Black Friday. The study didn’t distinguish between those who’ll head out to stores after Thanksgiving dinner and those who will get up at dawn on Black Friday.

While it’s safe to say at least some of your customers may shop in brick-and-mortar stores on Thanksgiving, be mindful that it will still only be a minority and that a large percentage of consumers actively dislike the idea of shopping on what’s supposed to be a day devoted to family (check out this anti-Thanksgiving-Day-shopping petition). Also, Thanksgiving Day shoppers are likely to be driven by discounts (25 percent of Accenture respondents who plan to shop on Thanksgiving say they’d be motivated by “doorbuster” deals, and 62 percent say they’d require discounts of at least 30 percent to buy). If you do open on Thanksgiving, you’ll need to deeply discount some items.

It’s up to you, your family and your employees whether you want to open your doors on Thanksgiving. Before you make this decision, though, consider taking the pulse of your customers through online surveys or social media to determine if opening is worthwhile or if it will do more harm than good.

If your store also has an e-commerce component, however, it’s a no-brainer to offer holiday deals and specials on Thanksgiving Day. Even people who don’t want to line up at malls on Thanksgiving night are often eager to go online and do some shopping after indulging in turkey and pumpkin pie.

To accommodate Thanksgivukkah, offer earlier online specials and be sure to include Hanukkah in the mix. Also use “Thanksgivukkah” in your SEO and consider buying some pay-per-click ads using the term. Since many Thanksgiving Day digital shoppers will be on mobile devices, make sure your email marketing messages are mobile-optimized and that any links go to a mobile-friendly website or landing page.

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