Pre-pandemic, the practice of stores opening for business on Thanksgiving Day was not without controversy. While some people liked getting a jump start on their Christmas lists while fortified with a bellyful of turkey, others saw it as sacrilege.
Then came COVID-19. With fears about crowds, plenty of major retailers took a pass on opening for Turkey Day 2020.
This year, it looks like that will continue.
Target will “carry it forward,” according to its website, and stay closed on Thanksgiving Day. So will mega-retailer Walmart. Ditto Nordstrom, Best Buy, Home Depot, Lowe’s, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Ikea, Old Navy and Macy’s. A JCPenney spokeswoman said the company will remain closed again this year “to allow our dedicated associates and customers time to spend with their loved ones and family this holiday season.”
Still, there will be some shopping options for those so inclined: Among them, Bass Pro Shops will open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
And if you run short on cornstarch for the gravy or forgot to pick up a pie? Sorry, grocery giants Publix and Winn-Dixie won’t be open to help. No Trader Joe’s, either. But local Whole Foods and Fresh Market stores will open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Lars Perner, a marketing professor at the Marshall School of Business at the University of Southern California, said this year brings some other factors to the table for retailers: With workers harder to come by, businesses may be hesitant to ask them to show up on a holiday.
Some years, “some of the retailers felt they could get enough employees to volunteer, given they were looking to make some extra money,” said Perner. “But these days, the economy is very strange.”
Supply-chain problems and difficulty getting products on the shelves will likely shape the season as well. Consumers — who have become increasingly comfortable shopping online — may find more flexibility in locating gifts there, Perner said.
“There may not be much of a reason to open the store on Thanksgiving,” he said. “People can shop at home without going out.”
Many stores have already launched online holiday deals.
“It doesn’t make sense from a financial perspective for many of the big retailers to be open on Thanksgiving,” said Ross Steinman, a Widener University professor of psychology with a focus on consumer behavior. “There’s obviously still a lot of concern about people being in crowds. And of course there are staffing issues everywhere.”
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Steinman said before the pandemic, some people were “disenchanted by the commercialization” of stores open for business on the holiday. Others objected to the idea of workers having to leave the family table before the pumpkin pie was served.
“However, as more and more stores moved to that model, I do think there was an acceptance by many consumers,” he said. “From a convenience perspective, it did provide some options for them.”
There’s also the theory that being closed on Thanksgiving could offer a bit of a boost to Black Friday, the traditional shopping day-after, when many stores have extended hours.
“I think we’re hungry for it. I think people are clamoring for it,” said Steinman. And, he said, consumers may find themselves saying, “‘Wow, I didn’t realize how much I missed this.’”