More retailers are announcing closures ona nod to a change in consumer habits and as a way for employers to demonstrate care to their workers, a consumer behaviorist and workplace expert said.
The holiday closures are a stark contrast to several years ago when shoppers were finishing Thanksgiving dinner early so they could get to the mall or other stores for a jump on Black Friday sales.
Several major retailers have announced closure plans for the holiday.
Simon Properties, one of the nation’s largest mall operators said it plans toon Thanksgiving Day for the fourth consecutive year.
Best Buy, J.C. Penney, Kohl’s, and Walmart have pledged to remain closed this year on Thanksgiving Day. All four of those retailers were open on Thanksgiving Day in 2019, but the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 caused retailers to close on Thanksgiving.
Several grocery stores, including popular chains such as Kroger, Albertsons, and Stop & Shop, have also announced that they will reduce their holiday operating hours to allow their employees to enjoy quality time with their loved ones. Trader Joe’s will be closed on Thanksgiving.
Only a handful of chains, including CVS, Walgreens, and Rite Aid, will maintain their usual hours on Thanksgiving.
“In the past, when the vast majority of retailer sales were made in person at physical stores, retailers kept trying to one-up each other by starting their Black Friday sales earlier and earlier as a potential competitive advantage,” said Mathew Isaac, chair of the marketing department at the Seattle University Albers School of Business and Economics. His research focuses on consumer judgment and decision-making.
“Eventually, this tactic spilled over into Thanksgiving as some retailers began offering Black Friday sales on Thursday itself,” he said.
Why are retailers staying closed on Thanksgiving?
But things have changed. Black Friday used to represent the official start of the holiday shopping season, said Isaac. That’s no longer the case as retailers have been starting their Black Friday holiday sales much earlier, even as early as October like Amazon Prime Days, he said.
“It is no longer crucial for them to focus so much on any one particular day since the start of the holiday shopping season is much more fluid than it used to be previously. Even the line between Black Friday and Cyber Monday has blurred.”
Since retailers are focusing on both online and in-store sales, it is not as crucial for them to get people physically into the stores on Thanksgiving and Black Friday, said Isaac.
Retailers have a variety of reasons for closing on Thanksgiving, said Katherine Cullen, vice president of industry and consumer insights for the National Retail Federation.
“Individual retailers make the decision on how to operate on Thanksgiving Day based on what is best for their own employees, customers and business,” she said. “Some retailers may choose to close on Thanksgiving Day while others spread out their ‘Black Friday’ deals both in stores and online throughout the holiday season.”
Not open for business:
Thanksgiving Day closure could be good for business
Thanksgiving Day closures could also be good for business or a retailer’s public image, said Isaac. Many employees don’t want to work on Thanksgiving and retailers don’t have to pay overtime.
“Given that nowadays (post-pandemic) it is probably only a relatively small segment of consumers that would consider shopping in person on Thanksgiving itself, the financial benefit to the retailer of staying open on Thursday is somewhat unclear,” he said. Many companies are also paying more attention to the needs of employees and public perception.
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“Ironically, closing could be viewed positively by consumers, too, since consumers increasingly want to support brands that are ‘good citizen’” and ‘caring employer’ whose values align with their own,” he said.
Laurens Steed, a business professor who specializes in employee well-being agrees.
“Research demonstrates that taking time away from work is good for employees so that they can recover from work stress, which has implications for their mental and physical well-being,” said Steed, an assistant professor of management at the University of Cincinnati’s Lindner College of Business.
A positive public image also can help a retailer, she said.
“In the grand scheme of all of the shopping that goes on in the holiday season, I’d be surprised if that extra 12 hours of shopping makes a difference to any giant retailer. However, in any individual employee’s life, getting to spend a holiday with the people you care about can be worth so much.”
Betty Lin-Fisher is a consumer reporter for USA TODAY. Reach her at blinfisher@USATODAY.com or follow her on X, Facebook, or Instagram @blinfisher.
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