Walmart and other large chains will again close their stores on Thanksgiving, continuing a practice many companies first started in 2020 in response to the pandemic.
“What started as a temporary measure driven by the pandemic is now our new standard,” Target CEO Brian Cornell said last year. “Thanksgiving store hours are one thing we won’t ‘get back to’ when the pandemic finally subsides.”
The outbreak of the pandemic pushed these chains to close their doors on the holiday to limit crowding and spread out the holiday sales season.
Holiday shopping used to be highlighted by a few key days — Black Friday being the biggest. Stores would use the occasions to rack up most of their seasonal sales. But with the growth of online shopping, retailers aren’t as reliant on specific days to drive sales anymore.
The extended shopping season means that stores can close on Thanksgiving without much impact on sales.
Retailers also don’t want everyone buying at the same time. So in recent years they have launched promotions and sales events earlier and spread them out across the season — helping avoid a crush of demand, which can strain store staffs and delivery networks.
The big chains are once again starting discounts early this year.
Staying open on Thanksgiving had also been a source of tension between retailers and labor advocates, especially as many retailers opened their doors on the holiday to get a jump on Black Friday.
Labor groups have argued that workers should instead be at home with their families on Thanksgiving.
But over the last several years, public pressure on retailers to close on Thanksgiving had faded. Workers’ rights groups have instead focused on broader issues such as the minimum wage, benefits and schedules.
Some states, including Massachusetts, Maine and Rhode Island, have prohibited big-box stores from opening on Thanksgiving. A California legislator proposed a law in 2016 that would have required some companies to pay employees double for working on Thanksgiving, but it did not pass.