A Look at the Business Side of Thanksgiving

For most people, Thanksgiving is a time for sitting back, relaxing, and enjoying good food with family and friends. However, for those in industries like food, retail, or travel, it’s one of the busiest times of the entire year. And when business booms, these industries must take advantage.

The Economics of Thanksgiving

For many industries and organizations, there’s a lot more than good food to be thankful for on Thanksgiving. Booming business and increases in demand mean higher profit margins and greater revenue. Here are a few specific ways Thanksgiving affects the American economy:

1. Grocery Store Sales Spike

The vast majority of people gather around the kitchen table and eat home cooked meals on Thanksgiving, which means grocery stores and food suppliers – from dairy farmers to turkey growers – stand to benefit.

According to Rebecca Kurowski, the communications manager for Corborn’s Inc., the top 10 Thanksgiving-related food items sold in grocery stores during the week of Thanksgiving are as follows: turkey, sweet potatoes and yams, stuffing bread, chicken broth, canned vegetables, pies, dinner rolls, gravy, potatoes, and canned pumpkin. (Interestingly cranberries don’t make the list.)

2. Uptick in Catering Activity

Not everyone cooks their own Thanksgiving meal. The last week of November is a popular time for companies, individuals, and other groups to host holiday parties. From a business perspective, this means an uptick in catering activity.

Christmas and New Year’s Eve may be big for caterers, but the holiday season starts with Thanksgiving. During this time, caterers often purchase holiday-specific supplies, which drives up revenue for a restaurant and bakery suppliers.

3. Busy Air Travel

For those trying to schedule some last minute air travel before Thanksgiving, it’s probably best to hold off. Research from Concur shows that airports will be busier than ever over this period.

“Concur says the week before Thanksgiving, namely the second to last Wednesday and Thursday before the holiday in the U.S. is typically the busiest time for business flights,” journalist Joshua Sophy explains. “Last year, the busiest days were Nov. 16 and 17. But don’t think that traveling any other day that week is a breeze. The week before Thanksgiving is a busier time for business air travel than any other throughout the year.”

While airliners certainly benefit from the increase in travel, it’s typically a headache on the customer service front. People often get bumped from overbooked flights, plus many travelers are inexperienced flyers who aren’t prepared for things like security checkpoints and checked baggage.

4. Crowded Roads

It’s believed that Thanksgiving weekend 2017 will once again be one of the busiest weekends in terms of highway traffic. Last year, AAA estimated there would be roughly 46.3 million people driving at least 50 miles from home. With lower gas prices this year, it wouldn’t be a stretch to see that number rise closer to 50 million. This benefits individual gas stations, as well as the oil and gas industry as a whole.

5. Black Friday Shopping

Starting in 2010 with Sears (and then Walmart and Target in 2011 and 2012), retailers began the trend of kicking off Black Friday on the night of Thanksgiving. And while Black Friday shopping is more popular than ever, a number of major retailers are now backing off this approach and waiting until the day after Thanksgiving to open.

Retailers like Costco, Hobby Lobby, Home Depot, IKEA, Lowe’s, Office Depot, Sam’s Club, Staples, and TJ Maxx are among the dozens of companies that have already bowed out of Thanksgiving Day hours.

The Other Side of Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is about more than money and wealth, but it’s hard to ignore the economic impact of this traditional holiday. It kicks off the holiday season in grand fashion and businesses across industries like food, retail, and travel enjoy tremendous benefits.

Melissa Thompson
Melissa Thompson writes about a wide range of topics, revealing interesting things we didn't know before. She is a freelance USA Today producer, and a Technorati contributor.