Less than two weeks to go until Thanksgiving — or as some wags have dubbed it, Black Friday Eve. It seems the turkey and stuffing are being eclipsed by stocking stuffers and TVs as merchants desperate for a decent fourth quarter horn in on the traditional day of feast and fellowship.
Shopping season stories are more or less obligatory this time of year, but you also can squeeze in some business and economy pieces related to Thanksgiving, which increasingly appears to be a booster for restaurants, grocers, caterers and other food purveyors. The turkey-to-go story isn’t very fresh any more but you can look for interesting twists that serve niche markets; Progressive Grocer reports on one chain selling kosher Thanksgiving dinners, for example, that feature kosher turkey, beef brisket, challah stuffing and other treats.
Other merchants in your area might target those celebrating Hispanic Thanksgiving, or Dia de Accion Gracias, a meld of American and Latino food and traditions. An Amazon.com merchant is offering a gluten-free Thanksgiving basket and as this Vegansaurus blogger points out, last year Whole Foods and other merchants offered vegan and vegetarian options for Thanksgiving Day feasters. Check around for organic and/or cage-free turkey farms, and other locavore angles to the traditional meal ingredients.
And if you want to take a more quantitative approach, the latest Consumer Price Index is due out next Thursday, Nov. 15 — you can use the detailed expenditure table to show changes to the cost of common Thanksgiving menu items; turkey, for example, was up 6 percent in September over the same month in 2011. The American Farm Bureau Federation already is out with its assessment of turkey-dinner costs; it says the birds cost a bit more due to increased demand but that a standard meal still can be assembled for about $6 per person.
The four-day weekend also, of course, is considered one of the busiest travel periods of the year; the trade group Airlines for American just projected that 24 million passengers will fly in the U.S. between Nov. 16 and Nov. 27. That’s up only 150,000 passengers over last year but still could bolster airlines — and airport-related businesses like airline caterers, airport bars and fuel suppliers — battered by the waves of cancellations due to Hurricane Sandy. AAA hasn’t released its outlook yet; look for it next week, but you’ll want to check in with hospitality and lodging businesses in your area to see if they’re seeing relatively flat bookings and sales compared to 2011. Browse daily deals sites, as well, for other pitches and promotions tied to the holiday weekend.
I’d also check with destination attractions like resorts and casinos to see what quirky things they may be doing to drive traffic; the casinos in my area are doing ham and turkey giveaways, for example, and PubCrawl.com (who knew?) is touting a Thanksgiving Eve Turkey Pub Crawl in Chicago.
Another facet of Thanksgiving is the encroachment of retail sales into the day itself. Walmart famously is kicking off its Black Friday deals at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving, and Toys R Us is opening that evening as well; here’s a list of major chains hours from TheBlackFriday.com. I wonder if retail workers will be in the stores all day long stocking and sprucing up displays for the expected crush; you might pursue this from an employee or workplace angle just for a different approach.
And, as I surmised in a recent blog post, tough weather events are thought to be affecting retailers’ plans; the New York Times reports that the effects of Hurricane Sandy snarled ground, rail, marine and air cargo traffic and damaged warehouse merchandise enough that the effects are expected throughout the holiday shopping season. You might check with your state’s retailers association about any concerns local merchants have.