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  • Writer's pictureJennifer

Thanksgiving—Is it about Giving or Getting? Part 2 of 2

Updated: Apr 14, 2022

Well, we made it through the first days of getting. I almost don't want to say the words here. You all know what I am talking about. We'll never forget the traumatizing crazy news reports of yesteryears—the all-out brawls as shoppers hurled fists and words, sometimes weapons, in the name of getting their Black Friday deals. I managed The North Face Peabody, MA store for two Black Fridays; and thankfully witnessed zero of those crazy shenanigans. The first year, when opening just after midnight on Thanksgiving—because now we're into Friday, we had the typical stay up all night adolescents that came in, a bit still buzzed from their turkey day, scouring the store for deals, they'd either purchase or worse shoplift. The big rush didn't start until about 5:00 AM when the real shoppers hit the malls. Black Friday 2020, we didn't open until 6:00 AM, so we hit the ground running. Store planning for the holiday shopping season in retail starts in early October, if not sooner. And with this year's jamming up of inventory, herculean challenges in staffing, and the continued expectation to reach goals measured by pre-pandemic numbers, I am sure it feels relentless and unforgiving. This year, more than ever, I feel for all the retail frontline workers.

I don't shop on Black Friday—I am not a big shopper at any time of the year. I am a need shopper. When I need it, I buy it. I love experiences and sharing them. Most I engage in are free with the exception of concerts, travel, and skiing. I get a charge out of nature. Being in and on the water year-round, hiking, camping, climbing, or just a walk at sunset along a leave-strewn path in the company of my eighty-year-old mom.

I love the earth, the sky, the wind, and beautiful landscapes. That's another reason I shop as little as possible. When I do shop, I relish finding something to repurpose. Sure, I took advantage of my brand discount when I had the opportunity. The North Face is a great outdoor brand that produces quality and innovative items. All and all, though shopping is not my thing. You may ask, how on earth did I come to run a retail store with that attitude? As I said, I love the outdoors. The North Face is an almost mystical brand with 55 years of sewing the experience of sailing down the slopes, reaching the peak of mountains, or sleeping under the stars into their products. It's a brand I had grown up on and I also love sales. Meeting the curiosity of the customer and sharing their enthusiasm for discovering something unique and useful can be a truly meaningful exchange. Whether it's sales for consumer products, brand development, or selling the good we need in the world—making those connections is what drives me. What I came to learn is that running a retail store, especially through the Olympics of the holiday season and a pandemic, is not for the faint of heart—even when you love the brand.

I left my management position at the end of last August. At that time, my team was as equally tired as I was, but working sixty-hour weeks had taken a toll. I was burnt out—the medical definition kind of burn-out, and no amount of suggestions to management—ideas to resolve the challenges—were leading either me or my team in a better direction. You know simple ideas: like scaling back hours of operation so team members could take much-needed time off before the holiday hit parade or supporting the field managers with recruiters for hiring. Back in the summer of 2021 as unemployment national benefits were still available, hiring was almost impossible. Thankfully for those managing retail or hospitality that has changed—at least a bit.

There are 25+ days until Christmas. Hanukkah starts at sundown on November 28th this year, Kwanza is celebrated from December 26 through January 1, and Three Kings Day ends the Christian celebration on January 6, 2022. Christmas may have started with the birth of Jesus, frankincense, and myrrh but, it's now more often than not a story of consumption—getting instead of giving. So if we are going to shop, let's shop wisely. A wonderful tool I came across, that can be one of your guides in getting this year is Good On You. They publish a comprehensive rating of fashion brands and their impact on people, the planet, and animals. Mattel and Hasbro continue aggressive plans in sustainability; and recycling in partnership with TerraCycle. Products of Change (with its roots in the $292.8 billion brand-licensing industry—revenue from 2019) is spearheading a living library on collaborative efforts addressing the necessities of developing sustainable consumer products. Another favorite brand, REI asked us all once again not to shop and instead #OptOutside—at least for Thanksgiving and Black Friday. In its seventh year, REI forgoes profits on the busiest shopping day of the year and instead pays its more than 15,000 employees to be with family and friends enjoying the best gift in life—the outdoors.

What do I hope for this holiday, aside from a new job focused on giving instead of getting? I hope that we all give throughout the year, and not just on Giving Tuesday. I hope for an ever-rising consciousness in consumption and its imperative need to halt our climate crisis. I hope for a world that is far more collaborative. That good is not just a term built into a branding message of purpose—that good is actionable, sustainable, and measured against people, planet, and profits. Most of all, for this holiday season, I hope for kindness and patience towards those who are in service to you as you shop. Remember giving is the best gift.

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