For the first time this year, many retailers began the traditional shopping day of Black Friday on Thanksgiving Day.
At least one Missouri legislator wants to put a stop to that practice. State Rep. Jeff Roorda, a Democrat, has proposed a bill that would prohibit retailers from opening until 12:01 a.m. Friday. Exempt would be restaurants, gas stations and pharmacies.
“Thanksgiving should be about families, not profit and greed. It’s Thanksgiving Day, not Black Friday Eve,” Roorda said. Roorda said he was concerned about the effect on retail employees who had to work on Thanksgiving. “As retailers try to outdo each other, there will be fewer and fewer hours available for retail workers to spend with their loved ones on Thanksgiving. If we say they can’t open until 12:01 on Black Friday, then the playing field is level for every retailer,” he said.
It’s unclear how far the proposal will go in the Republican-controlled legislature.
The best outcome is that the legislation goes nowhere. While Roorda’s sentiments may be shared by many and appear sincere, it’s not the role of government to regulate when stores open and close.
Three states, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Maine, have similar laws preventing sales before midnight Friday. Those bans are remnants of the old “blue laws” that have remained on the books.
There was a time when almost every state had blue laws, preventing businesses from being open on Sundays and some holidays. For the most part, those laws have disappeared.
Traditionalists can mourn the loss of these laws, but the fact is that a lot of customers expressed a desire to shop on Sundays. That pressure from customers persuaded many states to overturn the laws.
The retailers who choose to open on Thanksgiving Day aren’t to be blamed. A lot of their profitability for the year hinges on a successful holiday season. If the competition is open first, sales could be affected. And if sales are affected adversely enough, those retail employees Roorda is concerned about could lose their jobs.
We can all wish that Black Friday would be confined to Friday. But if we want that to happen, the road is clear. Consumers need to tell retailers they’d rather stay home on Thanksgiving than shop. Consumers are in charge, but they have to vote with their feet and pocketbook. It appears, however, that consumers are sending the opposite message. It’s likely Thanksgiving Day will continue as a shopping day.
That’s a part of the free enterprise system and legislators such as Roorda would be wise to let it work.