Published on: November 25, 2014by Michael Sansolo
Boy, the way Glenn Miller played!
Songs that made the Hit Parade.
Guys like us, we had it made.
Those were the days!
And you knew where you were then.
Girls were girls and men were men.
Mister, we could use a man like Herbert Hoover again.
Didn't need no welfare state.
Everybody pulled his weight.
Gee, our old LaSalle ran great.
Those were the days!
In so many ways, Thanksgiving is the most American of holidays. First off, we all celebrate it no matter what our racial, ethnic or religious background. And secondly, many of us manage to celebrate it the same way: by arguing with family members over topics from food to politics to football.
This year we have loads to fuel the discussions. We can discuss whether or not stores should be open and people working, even though nearly every other American holiday now seems to center around sales and shopping.
Heck, we can even argue about the mayor of Seattle issuing a pardon for a tofurkey as if that somehow disrespects the Presidential traditional of pardoning a bird; a tradition that stretches all the way back to 1989.
But what we should be considering is how are families themselves have changed, and from a business perspective, what that really means in how Americans eat, shop, cook and live on days that aren't holidays.
In many ways the change in family structure is the essence of the new world.
Philip Cohen, a professor at the University of Maryland, recently conducted a study of family structure for the Council on Contemporary Families. His paper demonstrates how drastically family make-up has shifted in a fairly short time:
Cohen’s study finds that today 22% live in the male-breadwinner, married-couple homes that were the majority 50 years ago, while 23% live with just a single mother. The largest group -34% - lives with dual-earner parents. Another 7% live with a parent who lives with an unmarried partner, 3% with a single father and another 3% with grandparents but not parents.
Children aren’t the only group whose household structure has changed dramatically. Cohen’s paper finds that numerous factors including Social Security have greatly diminished poverty rates among the elderly, allowing the vast majority of seniors today to live on their own. Most of these changes, Cohen says, took place between 1960 and 1980. Like the pardoning of turkeys, this is a relatively new trend.
For the food industry, these findings are especially important. We’ve long since come to grips with the reality that Thanksgiving dinner is not necessary cooked at home and found a way to build a business out of selling hassle free traditional dinners (and even tofurkey).
Likewise we need to continuously ponder how the societal changes have reshaped the family and what that means to business every day of the year.
So yes, argue over politics, the Dallas Cowboys or even if it is morally wrong to run to Walmart to pick up some sale items. At the same time accept that the world we all operate in is very different than it was just a few decades back and the world of Norman Rockwell paintings is likely never coming back.
Then figure out what traditions you need to change to stay both in step and one step ahead.
Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at email@example.com . His book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available on Amazon by clicking here. And, his book "Business Rules!" is available from Amazon by clicking here.
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