Share

Are Thanksgiving Blue Laws Good (Or Bad) For Retailers?

Despite pent-up demand, stores in states that restrict sales on Thanksgiving Day see foot traffic lag during the Black Friday weekend, Foursquare CEO Jeff Glueck finds.

Leaving aside the debate over whether or not it’s unkind for retailers to make people work on a day like Thanksgiving, it’s worth noting the potential impact on business at the start of the crucial holiday shopping season.

In a comparison of states that impose “Blue Laws” preventing sales on Thanksgiving Day versus ones that leave that decision up to store owners, Foursquare data indicates that retailers in the former category appeared to be placed at a disadvantage. (It’s worth noting that New York was excluded from Foursquare’s look at 2016 retail data and that most of the Blue Laws states were in New England, which tends to have harsher weather at this time of year than other parts of the country.)

“While the three Thanksgiving Blue Law states [Maine, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts] saw an average foot traffic lift of 23 percent over the Thanksgiving weekend (Thursday through Sunday) in 2016 compared to a baseline weekend — the rest of the Northeast (Vermont, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and New Jersey) with no legal restrictions saw a greater average foot traffic lift of 35 percent the same year,” Foursquare CEO Jeff Glueck said in a blog post. “This showed us that retail performance over the full weekend was significantly higher in states that allow shopping on Thanksgiving Day.”

Pent-Up Demand, Missed Opportunity

Foursquare’s data, which looked at explicit check-ins (from its Swarm app) and passive visits (from both its Flagship discovery app and Swarm over Thanksgiving weekend 2016) indicated that “shopping between the hours of midnight and 3 a.m. accounts for only 3 percent of the total US foot traffic to the top 500 retailers on Black Friday.”

But in a sign of the pent-up demand for deals, the store traffic in those same middle-of-the-night hours reached as high as 14 percent in Maine, followed by 9 percent lift in visits in Massachusetts, and 5 percent in Maine.

“We found another, even stronger indicator that these shoppers are highly motivated; in New Hampshire, 29 percent of retail traffic on Thanksgiving Day is made up by visitors from Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Maine (a significantly higher proportion than an average Thursday),” Glueck said.

But pent-up demand is easily satisfied, as New Hampshire’s Blue Law State neighbors can attest: 60 percent of these same visitors did not make Black Friday shopping visits the following day back in their home state retail stores.