Lisa Katz| Crain’s Detroit Blog

The biggest shopping day of the year is almost upon us. Retailers everywhere are preparing for the onslaught of price-crazed customers who are ready to fight for their right to cheap electronics. But is it worth giving up your Thanksgiving holiday (or causing workers to do so)?

Kmart recently received a lot of attention for opening its doors on Thanksgiving  morning to get a jump on the competition. Many Americans are simply outraged that retailers could interrupt a sacred holiday of gratitude. But Kmart is not the only retailer open, nor is this the first year that many have been open on Thanksgiving Day. What the dynamic really comes down to is this: Stores are open because people will come, and they will spend.

According to the National Retail Federation, holiday sales represented 19.3 percent of total retail industry sales in 2012, with some retailers reporting up to 40 percent of sales occurring during this time.

Holiday sales have steadily increased an average of 3.3 percent each year, and the NRF is predicting that this year’s holiday sales will exceed $600 billion. These statistics speak to why a store might choose to get just a little more out of holiday consumerism.

In fact, some people view Black Friday (Black Thursday? Black Thanksgiving?) as a tradition all on its own. A website devoted to the tradition of Black Friday touts it as just another opportunity during the season to spend time with loved ones. Families get together to strategize, choose their routes, hit up their favorite eating spots during the mayhem, or even camp out every year.

It is not for everyone, but the Romero family (who have camped out every year for six years) says it really is about spending time together, and they just happen to do that for 164 hours in a row each year!

And what about employees? Shouldn’t they be spending time with their families too? Many retail employees take the job with an understanding that Black Friday is a non-negotiable workday. It may not be all day, it may not even be most of the day, but it is extremely likely that they will work at some point. Most stores are not shy about letting their employees know this either, especially if they have hired seasonal help.

Kmart released a statement that they give priority scheduling to those who volunteer to work. As much as they value the Thanksgiving holiday, there are many retail workers who want to work the hours — and long ones at that — to potentially get some holiday or overtime pay to afford their seasonal gifting or simply pay the bills. Retailers seldom report trouble finding the workers they need on these days, even if some view the arrangement (having to work on the holiday) as a bit of a raw deal.

Business Insider sparked a flurry of sharing after posting a story about a Pizza Hut manager who was fired for refusing to open the restaurant on Thanskgiving Day. The worker argued that the workers were required to work every day of the year — except Christmas and Thanksgiving — and they deserved a break.  Matt Walsh, a blogger for the Huffington Post, released a poignant article, “If You Shop on Thanksgiving, You’re Part of the Problem.” He argued that overzealous shoppers are standing in the way between hard-working parents spending Thanksgiving Day in peace with their families.

Regardless of your point of view, the good news about the emerging Black Thursday tradition is that it is optional participation. And if you choose not to shop on a full stomach, you may not even miss out on all of the great savings. Many sources are now saying that Black Friday deals can be had throughout the holiday season.  So rest assured:  if you believe that we should not stop giving thanks for what we have to go buy what we do not have, you can get your $98 flat screen just the same. And hey—if you forget the cranberry jelly—at least you know the stores are open that day, and you will not miss out on a thing.

Note: This blog was researched and developed with support from Sarah Sebaly, project manager — Strategic Pathways, for the Workforce Intelligence Network.

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