Many Large Retail Chains Keeping Their Doors Closed This Thanksgiving

In recent years, Black Friday has begun earlier and earlier, as many stores such as Wal-Mart, Target, and Macy’s now open their stores to Black Friday shoppers on Thanksgiving evening. In fact, Macy’s and Kohl’s are moving their opening time up to 6 P.M. on Thanksgiving, and K-Mart is actually staying open all day Thanksgiving. Recent history would lead one to believe that holidays are becoming less sacred to retail companies in the U.S., as the trend of opening on this holiday grows stronger with each passing year. However, a substantial amount of major retail chains are taking a stand against this trend by refusing to open at all on the day this year. Some notable chains that are among these stores are Hobby Lobby, Costco, and Nordstrom.

Every day that a retail company doesn’t operate is a lost opportunity to generate revenue, so it is curious that so many companies would make this decision when the trend seems to be pointing in the opposite direction. It is perfectly acceptable to think some of these companies do still believe in the sanctity of the holiday and believe in spending it exclusively with friends and family, however it would be naive not to believe that at least some ulterior motives are at play. One argument is that despite the growing trend of opening before Black Friday, a lot of consumers are turned off by the idea of a store being open on Thanksgiving. A study performed last month by retail personalization engine RichRelevance found that more than half of consumers surveyed had a negative opinion of shopping on the holiday. Some of these companies may be attempting to dress themselves as organizations that want to keep the holiday tradition, and in doing so; they may also be attempting to antagonize the companies that are staying open.

In order to find the motivation of these companies, it may be wiser to look inwards to its employees rather than outwards to its customers. The U.S. has arguably the worst culture when it comes to time off for employees. In fact, we are the only developed nation that does not guarantee that workers can take paid holidays, and taking a position toward not making employees work holidays undoubtedly positions a company as employee-friendly. I believe this rationale to be very likely considering some of the companies on this list. Costco and Hobby Lobby are widely renowned for treating their retail employees extremely well, paying them much closer to a living wage than their counterparts. The idea for them is that treating their employees exceptionally well will produce higher quality of work among existing employees and attract higher talent than the average retail position would. This desire to attract talent helps explain high-end retailers staying closed, such as Nordstrom, who would likely value their service performance higher than a Macy’s or JCPenney.

It is worth mentioning that since employers such as Costco, Hobby Lobby, and Nordstrom pay their employees so well, there is also less incentive to work for holiday pay. For retail chains that invest less money in human capital, employees may value the holiday pay more. Nevertheless, the companies staying closed on the holiday have the potential to influence perceptions of both their customers and employees.

Mark Mulkeen


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