In what’s become an annual holiday tradition, Americans are organizing protests and petitions to try and stop retailers from ruining the holidays.
For the past two years, hundreds of thousands of consumers have resorted to online petitions and even worker strikes to voice their anger at retailers that decided to open their doors—thereby requiring employees to work—on Thanksgiving. This year, retailer creep into the holiday has reached new highs (lows?), with some stores opening on Thanksgiving morning and many more launching their “Black Friday” sales that night. You know: four, five, or even seven hours before it’s actually Friday.
It’s now so commonplace for stores to open on Turkey Day that retailers like P.C. Richards, Costco, BJ’s, and Nordstrom stand out—and score some points with employees and good PR among those who want to keep the holiday a holiday—by actually staying closed on a day when virtually every business used to stay closed.
As far back as 2007, Nordstrom made a public stand against store hours on Thanksgiving or even midnight openings. “We just like the idea of celebrating one holiday at a time,” has been the company line, along with an opening time on the morning of Black Friday.
A recent BJ’s press release highlighted some of the deals it will making available during the week of Black Friday, while also crowing about how wonderfully family-friendly and contrarian the warehouse retailer is being by making a stand against a Thanksgiving opening:
Once again, BJ’s is bucking the retail trend of putting sales on Thanksgiving above family time and will continue its tradition of not opening on Thanksgiving Day, allowing Team Members to enjoy the holiday with friends and families.
Meanwhile, P.C. Richard & Son, a family-owned electronics chain with 66 locations in Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York, took out a full-page ad in the Sunday Star-Ledger (N.J.) to “Save Thanksgiving!” and bash the many retailers that are disrespecting traditional values by opening on the national holiday. “It is our opinion that retailers who choose to open on Thanksgiving Day or Night show no respect to their employees and their families, and are in total disrespect of family values in the United States of America. Keep Family First!” the ad states, as reprinted by Retail Wire. (Conveniently, many of the retailers being attacked are P.C. Richards’ direct competitors, and while simultaneously trying to save Thanksgiving, P.C. Richards also asks shoppers to take note of the latest sales in its Sunday circular.)
Even as Thanksgiving store hours are becoming standard, plenty of consumers aren’t willing to accept the assault on the holiday. Consumers have been airing their grievances on the Facebook pages of retailers open on Turkey Day, and also on pages devoted to boycotting Thanksgiving shopping. Dozens of petitions pleading with Target, Staples, Kmart, and all manner of other retailers and restaurants—even Medieval Times!—to stay closed on national holidays are popping up at sites like MoveOn, Change.org, and ThePetitionSite. And it’s likely more such complaints will appear in the days ahead. “In past years the vast majority of these petitions have poured in closer to Thanksgiving Day,” a Change.org spokesperson said.
While many of these petitions are started by people who say they are store employees being strong-armed into working on a day they’d rather be spending with their families, a CNBC post highlighted how some retail employees embrace holiday hours because of the extra pay and discounts they receive as incentives to volunteer for shifts.
In any event, as the Minneapolis Star-Tribune pointed out, more than 350,000 “Save Thanksgiving” signatures didn’t stop Target from opening on Thanksgiving last year, and it seems unlikely that any petitions will be able to slow the relentless snowballing of holiday creep going forward. The reason this is so is simple: Retailers know that shoppers will show up for deals at almost any time of day or night. Any grief that stores receive about ruining Thanksgiving is outweighed by the sales rung up at the register.
David Kuntz, an analyst with Standard & Poor’s, offered a succinct explanation for why retailers are open on the holiday to the Los Angeles Times: “I wouldn’t be surprised at all if stores are very crowded on Thanksgiving.”