Is the era of Black Friday madness finally coming to an end? In October, outdoor retailer REI announced that not only would it not be open on Thanksgiving, but that it would also close its doors on Black Friday, traditionally one of the biggest shopping days of the year. Instead of showing up to work, employees at the 143-store chain will get paid time off. The store’s website won’t be processing orders either. REI is urging people to spend the day after Thanksgiving outside, rather than at the mall or shopping online.
“We think that Black Friday has gotten out of hand and so we are choosing to invest in helping people get outside with loved ones this holiday season, over spending it in the aisles,” Jerry Stritzke, president and CEO of REI, said in a statement.
REI has earned praise for its move, but others have called it a marketing stunt. The “Opt Outside” campaign reinforces REI’s image as a responsible, socially conscious brand and the decision to close on Black Friday will likely strike a chord with the chain’s core customers, who probably aren’t the type to camp out in front of stores for deals anyway.
While REI is alone among major U.S. chains in staying closed on Black Friday, more retailers are deciding to stay closed on Thanksgiving. That’s a reversal of the trend in recent years, which saw many stores move from opening in the wee hours of Friday morning to welcoming customers on Thanksgiving Day itself.
Target, which used to stay closed until midnight on Black Friday, began gradually pushing back its hours in 2012, when it opened at 9 p.m. This year, shoppers will storm the aisles starting at 6 p.m. Macy’s, Wal-Mart, Toys R Us, Kohl’s, and Best Buy will also be among the stores tempting people away from the dinner table with promises of Thanksgiving Day door buster deals.
In addition to REI, here are some other major retailers that are saying no to opening their doors on Thanksgiving.
- T.J. Maxx
- Barnes & Noble
- Sam’s Club
Announcing that they’ll be closing their doors to let workers enjoy a day with their families definitely makes a retailer look good in some people’s eyes. But a few of the stores that are opting not to open, a list that also include Staples, Lowe’s, and Home Depot, are probably doing so because it makes good business sense, not out of the kindness of their hearts.
People may not see stores like Staples as shopping destinations worth skipping pumpkin pie for. The office supply chain opened at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day 2014, but reversed course this year, saying that it will open at 6 a.m. on Friday. Being open those extra 12 hours last year may not have been worth it.
“Are retailers (opening on Thanksgiving) to see more added to their bottom line? I’m sure some do, but really at the end of the day all it does is just spread consumer spending out,” Kathy Allen, a spokeswoman for the National Retail Federation, told USA Today. “If you open on Thanksgiving and there’s not people lined around the sidewalk, you’re going to reevaluate for the next year.”
Overall Black Friday retail sales fell by 11% last year. Those disappointing numbers, combined with grumblings about the holiday shopping frenzy cutting into family time for both retail workers and shoppers, could be slowing the trend of skipping an extra helping of turkey to head to the mall, either to punch a clock or to shop. And with Black Friday sales starting earlier this year than ever, even fewer consumers may be compelled to hit the stores on what is usually seen as day to spend with loved ones.
“I think what folks have started to realize is, ‘We can garner some goodwill,” Mike Griswold, research vice president for research firm Gartner, told the LA Times. “We aren’t necessarily going to take a huge hit financially by being closed on Thursday when we’re going to be open again on Friday.'”