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For years, retailers have tried to convince America that Thanksgiving is just as much about shopping as it is about turkey and family. But that effort has largely failed.
This year, more retailers are choosing to stay closed on Thanksgiving Day in response to backlash against the commercialization of the holiday. After years of trying to kick off Black Friday a day early, many companies have realized the strategy simply hasn’t worked.
More than 40 major retailers, including Costco, Barnes & Noble, Home Depot, and REI will be closed on Thursday.
Mall of America, which has opened on Thanksgiving for the past four years, won’t be open.
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CBL & Associates, the operator of 89 regional malls and shopping centers, is closing 73 of its locations on Thanksgiving Day and won’t open until 6 a.m. on Black Friday, CNBC reported. Last year, the mall operator opened at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving.
Many retailers say they’re closing on Thanksgiving in order to allow employees to spend the day with family. But analysts say there are financial reasons to stay closed as well.
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“We doubt that the majority of specialty retailers benefit from involvement in this annual Thanksgiving opening arms race,” Moody’s analyst Charles O’Shea wrote in a research note in late October.
“Retailers have felt the pressure and have played follow the leader” to open earlier on Thanksgiving Day, the note said. “While some have benefitted, most have not.”
Black Friday sales have fallen in recent years, decreasing 12% to $10.2 billion in 2015 from 2014, according to ShopperTrak. Looking at the entire four-day weekend, brick-and-mortar retail sales fell by 10.4%, to $20.4 billion last year.
Black Friday is even at risk of losing the title of the biggest shopping day of the year. RetailNext, a firm that tracks retail shopper traffic, is predicting that the biggest shopping day this year in terms of sales will be Friday, December 23 – just two days before Christmas.
Thanksgiving Day isn’t even expected to be among the 10 biggest days for shopping, according to the firm.
Retailers are hoping that by holding off on Black Friday sales until the day after Thanksgiving, they may be able to keep the shopping frenzy alive.
“Black Friday historically has been such a great shopping day,” CBL CEO Stephen Lebovitz told CNBC. “It’s lost its luster because we’ve diluted it … We want to bring back Black Friday and make it fun.”
Shoppers are also increasingly holding off on Black Friday shopping to get better deals online.
Last year, Americans spent more than $3 billion on Cyber Monday, an increase of 16% from the prior year.
Some retailers who have decided to stay closed on Thanksgiving are encouraging other stores to do the same.
Jerry Stritzke, the CEO of REI, slammed Macy’s decision to open earlier than ever on Thanksgiving this year, saying the move was “very disappointing” and “misses the point of what Thanksgiving is about.”
“Retail is tough today, but you have to stand for something – not just just ‘come buy stuff,'” Stritzke told Business Insider. “I hate to see that kind of decision. I hate to see it for the employees and I hate to see it for the retail industry. I don’t think it serves Macy’s or retail well.”
REI will remain closed on both Thanksgiving and Black Friday.
More than 55,600 people have signed a Change.org petition to “Tell Walmart, Target and JCPenny to Give Their Employees Thanksgiving Day Off.” The petition was started last year, by workers’ rights-centric consumer directory Labor 411, but has recently gained an influx of signatures as Thanksgiving draws near.
“Thanksgiving is one of America’s most cherished family holidays – a day to spend with friends and loved ones,” the petition reads. “As a patriotic American, I am against ‘Black Friday Creep,’ and believe retail workers at big box stores deserve a day to spend with family.”
Despite the backlash and diminishing financial returns, some major stores are still beginning Black Friday sales on Thanksgiving Day. Macy’s, Best Buy, Walmart, and Target are starting their in-store and online Black Friday sales on Thursday.