For smaller merchants, maybe opening on Thanksgiving Day isn’t such a great idea after all

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(This post originally appeared on The Washington Post)

Some of the country’s largest malls, and some of the biggest retail chains like Toys R Us and Macy’s are still planning on doing business on Thanksgiving. But they are becoming the minority.

The practice of opening Thanksgiving Day began as a marketing idea back in 2011 with the intention of easing the Black Friday rush and better accommodating those customers who couldn’t even wait for the pumpkin pie to be served. But it quickly became controversial. Many voiced complaints that commerce had gone too far and that stores were putting profits over their employees’ best interests.

Minneapolis’ Mall of America decided to abandon the practice. Other big names from Office Depot to hhgregg plan on closing this year after being open for the past several years. Other chains like Nordstrom and T.J. Maxx never opened on Thanksgiving and have no plans to.

Is negative public sentiment the reason? It’s more likely the lack of profits. Big retailers can cover the cost of overtime and additional expenses from the holiday opening. But for many of them the profit margins don’t justify the effort. According to a U.S. News/AP report, hhgregg’s president and chief executive said business on Thanksgiving actually declined over the previous two years when it opened at 4 p.m.

CBL, a national mall operator, found an “overwhelmingly positive” reaction from small and specialty stores when surveyed about closing its malls on Thanksgiving Day. This reaction has changed in recent years as the data has shown that for many, particularly smaller merchants, the extra effort just isn’t profitable enough to make it worthwhile.

“More retailers are coming to their senses and realizing it is a family holiday and from a business point of view, it’s not making much business sense,” CBL’s president and CEO said in the report.


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