* Some retail stores will be open on Thanksgiving morning
* Traditionalists say Thanksgiving shopping is "crass"
By Edith Honan
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Jason Thomas plans to gather
with his family Thursday afternoon for a Thanksgiving feast,
which means he will have a few hours in the morning to get a
bargain on a leather jacket or a flat-screen television.
In a trend that alarms traditionalists, the sharp financial
downturn since 2007 has prompted an increasing number of U.S.
stores to open on Thanksgiving, which has been one of the least
consumer-oriented of American holidays.
Thomas, 26, a New York City security guard. said he could
go shopping in the morning before his family gathers. "You
might want to have a nice outfit (to wear) for your family. And
then you can tell them -- 'I got it for a steal!"'
But some critics say opening stores on one of the only days
in the year they usually remained closed means less time
relaxing, bonding with family members and passing traditions
down to children.
"It's crass. There is a time and place for shopping," said
Elena Brouwer, director of the International Etiquette Centre
in Florida. "People should have a conversation. That's what
people should be doing on Thanksgiving."
The holiday celebrates the first successful harvest by
European settlers in 1621, when they shared a feast Native
For many Americans, the day spent in a orgy of eating
turkey and pumpkin pie and watching a series of televised
football games, has been the calm before the storm of "Black
Friday", the official start of the holiday shopping season.
But Kathy Grannis, the spokeswoman for the National Retail
Federation, said consumers appreciated the convenience of being
able to shop on Thanksgiving while stores could maximize sales
during the sluggish recovery.
"If it wasn't a great idea, retailers wouldn't have brought
it back. There's no sense in spending the money to open your
stores on Thanksgiving if you know your customer isn't
interested," she said.
More than 18 million adults went shopping on Thanksgiving
day in 2009, according to a survey by the federation, up from
the 10.3 million who went out shopping on the holiday in 2005,
when it began recording the data.
In 2008, during the worst financial crisis in decades,
Thanksgiving shopping traffic rose by 48 percent.
TABLE MANNERS LACKING
Among the retailers open on Thanksgiving day are Wal-Mart,
Sears Holdings Corp, and K-Mart, while many stores, including
Target, are opening as early as 3 a.m. on Friday.
Carol Haislip, director of the International School of
Protocol in Hunt Valley, Maryland, said Thanksgiving had become
the one day of the year when all Americans, whatever their
religion or ethnicity, gather around a dining table.
"It's the one time we have where no matter what, we all
come together and everything else stops," she said.
She said that it was an important occasion for learning
life skills, like table manners and artful small talk, but that
was being lost. "People are not learning how to behave at the
table, they're not learning how to be respectful of other
people, not interrupting," she said.
Sageen Bair, 29, said she tries to avoid New York's
pre-holiday shopping rush, but she said she wouldn't be
surprised if some members of her family couldn't resist a
promise of great bargains.
"Some people definitely will be out shopping. Some people
can't pass up a sale," she said. "If it's a really, really,
really good deal, I think everybody is hoping to get that.
In Manhattan, the crowds that flock to Macy's in the early
hours of Black Friday will be greeted outside the department
store by anti-commercialism guru Reverend Billy and his
40-person Life After Shopping gospel choir.
"They consider the time we spend alone with our families as
an under-exploited market," he said. "We try to take the
theater of retail and deploy it against itself."
(Additional reporting by Jon Lentz; Editing by Michelle
Nichols and David Storey)
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