In an effort to garner as much business as possible in a difficult economic climate, more top U.S. retailers will be opening their doors on Thanksgiving, a holiday that traditionally is a day of rest.
Although drugs and groceries stores have been opening on Thanksgiving for years, a growing number of leading retailers hope to reap a better holiday harvest by enticing shoppers either before or after their Thanksgiving meals.
For example, this year Sears, which reported widening losses last week, plans to break with tradition and open Thanksgiving Day, 7 a.m. to 12 noon. Its sister store Kmart has been opening Thanksgiving Day for 19 years. Retail giant Walmart also will be open as will many Old Navy, Banana Republic and Gap stores. Charming Shoppes announced that 400 of its Fashion Bug stores will also open Thursday complete with doorbuster specials and discounts up to 60% off. Toys R Us stores opens at 10 p.m.
18 Million Shopped Thanksgiving 2009
Retail analysts point to several factors that are causing retailers to rethink closing their doors on Thanksgiving. For one, Thanksgiving is fast become a major online shopping day a signal to some retailers that remaining open might translate into in-store sales.
Indeed, last year the National Retail Federation asked consumers about shopping on Thanksgiving for the first time. Some 18 million people shopped stores Thanksgiving Day 2009, the NRF said. Most of those shoppers were 18- to 34-year olds (about 17% the highest of all age groups) a target market many retailers are competing for.
“It’s definitely a new trend and we think it is a really added convenience for shoppers who want the great deals and don’t want the crowds,” says Kathy Grannis, an NRF spokeswoman.
“Retailers in this environment need any advantage they can get,” says Craig R. Johnson, president of Customer Growth Partners, a retail consulting group. Others, however, say the holiday hours seem to come from desperation. “Who is going to be at Sears on Thanksgiving?” asks Brian Sozzi of Wall Street Strategies.
“Somebody else is chasing a dollar? Let ’em do it,” Kevin Mansell, Kohl’s ceo told the Wall Street Journal. “I think our associates, and frankly our customers, deserve time with their families and that’s what Thanksgiving is about.”
Laws Prohibiting Thanksgiving Retail Sales?
The question of whether any retailer should be open on Thanksgiving is a hotly debated issue this year from editorial op-ed columns to the dozens of threads on the web from often disgruntled employees who have to work on Thanksgiving.
While Macy’s enjoys a special place in Thanksgiving Day tradition, its one thing to participate in a parade, another to be working on a retail floor like any other day.
Writing in the Christian Science Monitor, columnist Francine Kiefer blasted retailers for opening Thanksgiving Day. “You can at least support a legal, federal holiday that goes to the nation’s founding and that focuses on gratitude and togetherness. Local laws in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Puerto Rico will prevent Sears and other retailers from opening on Thanksgiving Day. Other states should consider such laws.”
Others say that the Thanksgiving Day openings unfairly penalize lower income families who get few holidays as it is. In her blog for Helium.com, journalist Jeanne Malaty called retailers greedy: “Their employees—fine men and women all—have no choice but to grin and bare it. Thanksgiving becomes just another work day with the add stress of their children’s’ sad faces as they explain that mom and dad really need the money to pay the bills and buy food.”
Employees: ‘Grin and Bare It’
When rumors began circulating among Sears employees around Labor Day that Sears Holdings planned to open on Thanksgiving like Kmart has done, employees began debate the issue on the company website, many urging employees and shoppers to write W. Bruce Johnson, Sears Holdings’ interim president/ceo to complain. Others, however, basically retorted: “Count your blessings that you have a job!”
As the nation’s largest retailer Walmart has a powerful impact on retail, one that its critics say can be precedent setting. “Walmart is now the nation’s largest private employer. Its choices have a profound impact upon how all other companies treat their workers, and many choose to follow its lead,” writes columnist “Will” on Wake Up Walmart.com, a website watchdog. “While some businesses are open on Thanksgiving, often for limited hours, we can now expect more and more companies to feel the need to be open that day, and more and more people who work for a living not being able to spend Thanksgiving the way that it should be spent.”
Indeed, many fear the worst: that Black Friday will further encroach on Thanksgiving turning a tradition that dates back to colonial times into just another shopping extravaganza.
Adds Kiefer: “If retailers keep nibbling on Thanksgiving, there will be nothing left but the bones of this day’s meaning. The country will be celebrating 50% off, instead of acknowledging the bounty it already has.”