Target will no longer open its stores on Thanksgiving Day, making a permanent change to the unofficial start of the holiday season that has been suspended during the pandemic.
To limit crowds in stores, last year retailers were forced to turn what has become a weekend shopping blitz into an extended event, with big holiday discounts starting in early October.
The forced change seems to have been accidental.
U.S. holiday sales in November and December rose 8.2% in 2020 compared to the previous year, according to The National Retail Federation, the nation’s largest retail trade group. The trade group estimates 2021 could break that record, rising between 8.5% and 10.5%.
Americans, able to receive similar offers on a wider schedule and relieved of some of the stress that go hand in hand with the holidays, appeared to be embracing change, which has also resonated with workers, Target said. .
Target CEO Brian Cornell wrote in a note to employees, “What started out as a temporary measure driven by the pandemic is now our new standard – one that allows our guests’ holiday wishes to be met within store hours and well. Recognizes our ability to deliver.” “You don’t have to wonder if this is the last Thanksgiving you’ll be spending some time with family and friends, because Thanksgiving store hours are something we won’t ‘get back’ when the pandemic finally subsides.”
Target is the first major retailer to take such a sustainable step during the pandemic, says Ken Perkins, president of retail research firm Retail Metrics, and its decision could inspire other retailers to follow its path. He believes retailers are also looking at whether it’s worth spending money on labor and other costs to open on Thanksgiving, when shoppers are turning away from online shopping and physical stores.
“With all these online shopping opportunities, is it really necessary to open up on Thanksgiving?” Perkins said.
Macy’s, which won’t open its stores on Thanksgiving for the second year in a row, said its curbside pickup service will be available in select locations. It also noted that it has not announced future plans, but “we are critical of these decisions being made to us by our customers as well as colleagues.”
Kohl’s and Walmart will also be closed Thursday, but Walmart said it has not yet made a decision on the future of Thanksgiving Day store shopping; Kohli declined to comment.
Target said distribution and call centers will have some employees on Thanksgiving, and they’ll collect vacation pay.
The holiday shopping season began to creep into Thanksgiving Day 20 years ago when retailers began kicking off sales in the early morning hours on Black Friday. Ten years later, Target and other major stores opened their doors on the holiday itself, creating a new shopping tradition.
Many did so to compete with Amazon and other growing online threats. At its peak five years ago, about 25 chain stores began crowdfunding their physical stores on Thanksgiving, according to consumer analyst Julie Ramhold of DealNews.com.
But the change seemed to just cannibalize Black Friday sales, with big crowds showing up for door buster deals on Thanksgiving. The shopping event thinned out even more when stores began marketing Black Friday deals for the entire holiday week and then later for the entire month of November.
Large retailers were hit by critics, who said thousands were forced to work instead of being with family during the holiday. In recent years crowds began to shrink for Thanksgiving Day as well, and a number of retail chains and malls, including the Mall of America in Minnesota, stopped the practice. This reduced the number of stores open on holiday to well under 20 major chains, leaving pharmacies and grocers open for at least a few hours.
Some, like Costco and Nordstrom never open their doors during the holiday, saying they want to honor the holiday.
Thanksgiving historically wasn’t a big sales day; It never makes it into the top 10 as stores usually open their doors around 5 pm
However, it has been a big online shopping day. For the past two years, the holiday has been behind only Cyber Monday and Black Friday in online sales, according to the Adobe Digital Economy Index.
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