BY LEON STAFFORD AND NEDRA RHONE
If you thought Thanksgiving shopping might be losing its appeal because of online protests or the decision by a few chains to keep their doors closed on the holiday, think again.
Target and Toys “R” Us on Monday announced they’ll be open for business Thanksgiving Day. They join Macy’s, Sears, Belk and Kohl’s, each of which previously announced plans to open at 6 p.m. on Gray Thursday, as the day before Black Friday now is known. Target opens at 6 p.m., Toys “R” Us at 5 p.m.
A spokeswoman for Walmart said the world’s largest retailer also will open on Thanksgiving, with a formal announcement coming later this week.
The move by the retailers isn’t much of a surprise given what’s at stake. Holiday sales are expected to rise 3.5 percent this year, reaching about $630 billion, according to industry experts and the National Retail Federation.
But that uptick would be smaller than last year’s 4.1 percent gain.
Black Friday, the retail sector’s traditional holiday kickoff, is increasingly being cannibalized by holiday sales that start earlier in the month or last far beyond the old “doorbuster” hours of the past.
“The retailers that are opening (on Thanksgiving Day) are just trying to get a leg up on everybody else,” said Bob Wordes, chief operating officer of The Shopping Center Group.
Retailers are under tremendous pressure to get consumers in any way they can, which includes offering in-store pick up of products bought online, offering more flexible hours and encroaching on days that used to be off limits like Thanksgiving, he said.
That hasn’t stopped some from pushing back. Target and JCPenney employees and their family members launched petitions on Change.org asking the companies to close on Thanksgiving, collecting more than 65,000 signatures each. JCPenney began opening on Thanksgiving Day in 2014. Target has done so since 2012.
JCPenney has yet to announce holiday hours.
Outdoor clothing and equipment retailer REI gave hope to some wishing for a reversal of the holiday creep when the company announced last month that its stores would be closed not only on Thanksgiving, but also on Black Friday.
REI pledged to pay its employees to go outside on Black Friday. A social media campaign encouraged other people to join in doing something other than shopping on Black Friday.
Several retailers including Costco, Staples, Game-Stop and Half Price books had already declared their doors closed to Thanksgiving Day shoppers.
Melody Wright, chief operating officer of privately held department store chain Von Maur, said the company plans to follow its 140-year tradition and keep its stores closed on Thanksgiving. Instead of driving new revenue as hoped, the evidence she has seen indicates opening on Thanksgiving only spreads the sales out over several days.
That costs the industry millions in overtime and hurts employee morale, Wright said.
“I don’t think they are netting a positive business result,” Wright said of competitors, adding that it would be difficult for them to change course because, “They can’t unring that bell.”