Tis not the season for crowds...
'Tis not the season for crowds... sculpies/gettyimages.com

And now it's Target. The Minneapolis-based retailer will follow Walmart's recent decision to close on Thanksgiving Day. Dick's Sporting Goods is following suit. The expected absence of consumer froth and overflow from these major retailers will likely force other brick-and-mortar businesses to close their doors on the day the US eats lots of big birds.

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From Target's press release:

Historically, deal hunting and holiday shopping can mean crowded events, and this isn't a year for crowds. That's why our biggest holiday deals will be available earlier than ever, so you can shop safely and conveniently without worrying about missing out on deals that usually come later in the season

The pronouncement "this is not the year for crowds" is filled with meanings. In it we hear a rebuke of the federal government, which, under the command of the White House, is still committed to the idea that COVID-19 is under control and that the re-opening of the economy and education system should continue as scheduled. We also hear the tremors of a cultural shift that might bring down a major institution of American capitalism, Black Friday.

The reason workers are forced to surrender their family time to their employers is because Black Friday has its kickoff on Thanksgiving Day (it's called Gray Thursdays). After eating too much, and watching the Cowboys versus the Redskins, the American consumer heads to the malls at around 8:00 p.m. This is not happening this year. Also, retailers are planning to spread the Holiday deals over the end of October and much of November to avoid crowds. Also, the name Redskins is finally a thing of the past. The consumer will have to watch the Cowboys versus the Washington Football Team this year.

But this sharp reduction in the importance of Black Friday—the day when the books go from losses (red) to profits (black—one of the few times the English language offers a positive connotation of that word)—might have a lasting impact on our culture. At our point in time (five months into the pandemic and many more months to go), the extinction of the spectacle of consumers fighting over cheap products cannot be ruled out. One can easily imagine many future Americans recalling the very idea of a Cowboys versus Redskins match and the images and stories of "doorbusters" with a shudder of embarrassment.

Let's think about this for a moment. Gray Thursday is actually a new thing. It officially began, according the Harvard Business Review, in 2011. Before that, Black Friday stated early in the morning (5 am), then very early in the morning (4 am). In 2012, it leapt into late Thursday night (10 pm), and began its march down the Holiday, finally settling on 8 pm. It was only a matter of time before Black Friday declared victory over the whole of Turkey Day.

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Retail workers were, of course, never happy about these developments. In a 2012 issue of the Harvard Business Review, Zeynep Ton wrote:

One group is definitely worse off: retail employees. Customers can pass on Gray Thursday, but employees are stuck. They often have to show up several hours before opening. And they don’t like it! Casey St. Clair, a Target employee, was so upset that she set up a petition on change.org to “save Thanksgiving” and go back to Friday morning opening. By midday today more than 370,000 people had signed it.

What halted the progress of this nonsense? What returned to retail workers their time "with... loved ones,” to use the words of John Furner, the president and chief executive officer of Walmart US? What also gave the workers a holiday bonus to the tune of $428 million in cash? Coronavirus.

Some will say: All of this Thanksgiving goodwill is nothing more than a breeze. We will be right back to the same old rotten same old as soon as the pandemic clears. My answer? Because the White House is only capable of worsening the crisis (opening the economy, opening schools, limiting testing, giving corrupt corporations cash for vaccine development), the pandemic will only end with the end of Trump's presidency. If that happens, if he loses in November, then we have to wait two whole months for the implementation of the scientific management of the coronavirus.

At this distant time (distant in terms of the pandemic and its death toll), late January 2021, it will take at least four months for an aggressive economic shutdown to finally bring the virus under control. This is May of 2021. And this improvement can only happen if Joe Biden is totally deaf to the howls, screams, and barks from the furies of the markets. In short, the same old same old cannot happen until at least a year from where we are now. That is a lot of time to change American culture, habits, and forms of social relationships. The mistake is to see those separated from us by a year in the future and 200,000 additional deaths as exactly the same as us. Indeed, we are not the same as those who are six months in our past.

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