MINNEAPOLIS — Count your blessings, then get to work.
That may be Thanksgiving for more retail workers this year, as stores desperate to pull in buyers on the first weekend of the holiday shopping season push their openings earlier and earlier. Unhappy workers who say it ruins their Thanksgiving celebrations are trying to persuade companies to back off, but retailers say they're stuck: It's what customers want.
Reporting to work at 11 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day ruins what is supposed to be a day spent with family, said Anthony Hardwick, who works part time at a Target store in Omaha, Neb., corralling carts. His online petition on change.org against Target's plan to open at midnight on Black Friday had drawn more than 180,000 signatures from retail workers and the public by Friday, about two weeks after he launched it.
"The folks that work at Target are going to be working all night overnight on one of the most hectic retail days of the holidays," Hardwick said. "They need to be well-rested for that, so they have to miss out on Thanksgiving if they're going to be working overnight."
Merchants are competing for shoppers on a weekend that can be critical for their annual sales and profits, and a growing number fear opening at 4 or 5 a.m. may be too late in this economy.
Stores started testing midnight openings several years ago. But midnights have proliferated this year, with Target, Best Buy and Kohl's announcing midnight openings for the first time. Macy's, which opened eight stores at midnight last year, is opening all of its 800-plus Macy's stores nationwide at that time this year.
A National Retail Federation survey last year shows that the number of shoppers who flocked to stores opening at midnight following the Thanksgiving feast in 2010 tripled from 2009.
"I think a lot of people, with these movements like Occupy Wall Street, I think a lot of people are getting tired of wealthier people taking advantage of the middle class and poorer people," said John Stankus, 22, a stocker at the Target store in Cypress, Calif., who signed Hardwick's petition.
"It's their greed and their wanting to take advantage of us — because they're not missing their Thanksgiving dinner."
Hardwick said that's typical of the kind of support he's heard, including from some who are afraid to sign because they fear losing their jobs.