Gobble, gobble: A cornucopia of Thanksgiving stories

by November 14, 2013

Hard to believe there are only two weeks left until Thanksgiving, the day of eating, parades, football, traveling and — increasingly — shopping.   Each pasttime offers its own cornucopia of business angles.  Here are a few ideas to augment what you may already be doing.  And don’t forget to tune in on Nov. 18 to SABEW’s “From Turkey to Tinsel” teletraining featuring reporting tips from eminent journalists and analysts nationwide.

Eating.  Food is the centerpiece at of the day, and you probably already are checking with perennial sources like grocers and restaurants on topics such as take-out holiday dinners.  Here’s a just-out release from GrubHub highlighting how the demand for traditional Turkey Day foods spikes this time of year, with stuffing up 140 percent and good old green bean casserole up 53 percent.   The mobile-food ordering company also has ranked markets in terms of those most likely to get Thanksgiving Day takeout; the release only lists the top five but perhaps they’ll run data for your region on request.   A behind-the-scenes look at how a Thanksgiving dinner is assembled at various restaurants, catering shops and grocery stores — with comparison of ingredients and costs — could be enlightening, as well.

Thanksgiving data at NRF

The National Retail Federation is a good resource for holiday shopping data.

But I was thinking that — especially with the gigantic farm bill still be wrangled in Congress — a look at the agriculture behind tradtional Thanksgiving fare might be enlightening.  You could talke a look at the industries of poultry farming, potato-growing and so on — tracing the economic impact to your state (if any; not every state grows cranberries) of common foodstuffs.  The USDA’s Horticultural Census database is helpful; you can sort right down to ZIP code level by crop or animal to see what’s growing in your neck of the woods; the state summaries are very informative, too.   And with subsidies a contentious issue just now, check out this 2011 report from the Wisconsin Reporter, “Thanksgiving side dishes heavily subsidized.”  Based on the , Environmental Working Group’s Farm Subsidies Database,  it told just how many taxpayer dollars were underwriting the holiday feast; you could use the EWG’s database to see which growers of Thanksgiving fare are earning subsidies in your market.

And it appears that the American Farm Bureau Federation hasn’t released its annual “cost of the Thanksgiving dinner tally yet, but you can check back there if you want to compare national averages with local costs in any consumer stories.

Parades.  Not too much here.  You might check on how local business sponsorship of area Thanksgiving Day parades is, though these events seem few and far between.  Perhaps taking a look at sponsorship of  the myriad “Turkey Trot” fun runs might be an angle, or you might look ahead to any other holiday parades pending in your area, to find interesting businesses related to the production of floats, big balloons and other financial angles — here’s a place called Lone Star Parade Floats in Texas that might be of interest to local audiences.   How about a profile of professional performers who are paid to entertain in parades — not just municipal parades but those at theme parks, resorts and attractions.  In sum, who’s in the business of festivity in your area?

Football. Workplace bullying issues spring to mind, in light of the Miami Dolphins ongoing personnel woes.   And here’s an interesting Bloomberg report on the business of fantasy football, while on Pheonix businessperson is launching fantasy football insurance; the Phoenix Businss Journal reports.

Shopping.  There’s a lot of talk this year about the death of Thanksgiving, and of the Black Friday shopping mania.  With most chain stores announcing some sort of Thanskgiving Day hours, it does seem that the restful holiday is about to become just another day of the week.  And I’ve been getting “Black Friday sneak peak” ads in my e-mail for weeks; the mystique of that bargain-hunting bonanza seems to have faded, as well.  I have a couple of questions that might make for good local story angles:  First, does the rush to accelerate the shopping season really pay off for retailers?  This Marketwatch piece says T-day sales happen at the expense of Black Friday sales; I’m sure that’ true throughout the season.   People’s pocketbooks and appetites are only so large.  While retail and mall managers are reluctant to be candid at this time of year, you might ask them to assess winners and losers when sales are spread out rather than concentrated.

Meanwhile I’ve been wondering — when are Main Street merchants — retailers in downtown areas, strip malls and other non-chain, non-big-box venues — going to be forced to open on Thanksgiving?  Other than restaurants, I haven’t seen it, but you might want to nose around for examples or at least talk with proprietors about how T-day shopping hours at chain stores put pressure on them.   And speaking of Main Street, this financial services firm, Capital Access Networks, has been reporting on Black Friday sales at small businesses for the past couple of years; you might contact them (or similar firms in your area)  in advance about the chances of getting any market-specific data.

To help local businesses, American Express once again is touting Small Business Saturday and offering a $10 statement credit to cardholders that register and then spend that much in a single transaction on Nov. 30; you might want to look into related promotions and events in your area.