Thanksgiving is the next big milestone on the cavalcade of fall and winter holidays, and offers no shortage of business and financial story possibilities.
First, speaking of gratitude, how about a piece on thankful employers? There are tidbits of evidence, like this Towers Watson survey, that annual bonuses might be in store for more workers this year. Readers would devour a poll of your area’s major local employers (and a sampling of small/medium business owners) about how they plan to show their appreciation to employees by year’s end.
Are Christmas bonuses on their lists, or restored benefits, or parties, or spiral-sliced hams? Interview the employers but also suppliers of typical largesse, like hams and gift cards, about corporate demand this year.
The holiday this year falls on Nov. 25, somewhat late in the calendar – meaning one fewer of the crucial shopping weekends before Christmas.
This may explain some of the early promos I’ve noted in previous posts and probably will fuel more “pre-Black Friday” discounts and sales events, usurping the traditional day-after-Thanksgiving kick-off to the deep markdowns, one-time-only deals and shopping mania that traditionally have marked the day.
Speaking of Black Friday, a number of websites purport to leak advance copies of retailers’ ads for the big day. Check out BFads.net, BlackFriday.info, BlackFridayAds.com - or simply Google ‘black Friday ads.’ One site, The BlackFriday.com, has a “most popular” ads ranking that may give some insight into consumer trends – Wal-Mart is at the top. (Couldn’t reach the site masters to determine their metrics, though – so who knows if shopper clicks really determine the popularity.) Check with other and local advertising venues, and the firms that create the ads, about retailer spending and trends in promotions this year.
Twitter search on “Black Friday” also turns up a plethora of posters; doing an advance search to narrow your geographic region might turn up some black-belt frugalistas willing to blog or be interviewed for personal finance and spending trends stories. Sign up for retailers’ Twitter feeds, too – TargetDailyDeals is touting sales and says a special Black Friday deal will materialize if it gets 150,000 subscribers by then. (Come back next week for more on social media for holiday biz stories.)
Meanwhile back to Thanksgiving. Aside from being a shopping milestone weekend, it’s still its own holiday with separate traditions and financial angles. It’s also a picturesque time so be sure to contemplate some or all of your holiday stories for multimedia exposure through video, photo galleries, reader photo contributions, interactive charts and more.
Many consumers are worried about food prices – just check out blogs, message boards and other responses to the announcement that Social Security recipients would not get a cost of living increase this year. (And see this recent post, “Will inflation impact grocery store shelves?”) As this WJXT report from Florida points out, the price of turkey is on the rise – and this weekly status report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service seems to bear that out. The report is a gold mine of interesting, nitty-gritty data about the egg and poultry market; you can search for similar updates on potatoes, yams, flour and of course the ingredients for green bean casserole. Sounds like cranberry production is down by as much as 30 percent this year for some producers, a blow to their livelihood and a bust for supermarket shoppers, too.
Consider an early “cost of a typical Thanksgiving dinner” not as a novelty piece but as part of an in-depth interview with grocers and suppliers about what’s putting pressure on food prices and what’s in store for consumers in 2011. Your state agriculture department, wholesale grocery distributors and the USDA should be able to provide comparative prices for 2009. Needless to say, if you’re in an area with big producers of the typical ingredients, contrasting their point of view with that of the consumer would make for excellent mirror pieces.
OTHER TRADITIONAL FARE STILL OF INTEREST:
Tourism. How are B&Bs, area antique towns, resort areas and other venues faring? I see Hotels.com is running a special that offers free breakfast to those booking rooms around the T-day weekend; what other enticements are firms in your area offering and what do their enticements say about your local economy?
Take-out. Ready-to-eat meals from restaurants, supermarkets, catering firms and other culinary companies have become mainstream over the past decade or so; check menus, prices, pre-order requirements (are more customers committing later this year?) and capacity at area firms. How are restaurants faring with dine-in offerings,too?
Transportation. Airports, bus lines, highway construction, rail service, rental car fleets – if these are important employers in your area, check on reservations, disruptions, promos and other financial angles.
Touchdowns. Of course, we here in the Detroit area will be cheering on the Lions, a Thanksgiving Day tradition since 1934. If your readers aren’t so fortunate, there are other pro games afoot that day, according to this NFL schedule. Of course, college football is a staple and even some high-school games are on. Check with sports bars and other viewing venues about parties, catering and other moneymakers. And if your area has popular teams, see what sort of Thanksgiving weekend spin-off business is generated by out-of-town fans visiting for the big game.