Should Stores Open on Thanksgiving?

23 Nov , 2010  

More and more stores are opening on Thanksgiving Day.  For many years almost every retailer closed on the holiday.  Then a few started opening on Thanksgiving.  This year the trend is clearly accelerating:  Sears, Kmart, Gap, Walmart and Old Navy all will be opening at least some of their stores.

Is this a good idea?

Personally, I don’t like it.  Thanksgiving has always been a rather unique holiday in the United States: a moment of peace before the holiday chaos.  On Thanksgiving, there isn’t a huge focus on opening presents or shopping; it is a quiet day of giving thanks.

For a retailer, closing on Thanksgiving has advantages, too.  It creates more excitement on Friday, as the stores reopen with fabulous deals.  It also leads to happier employees, at least in theory.  They have the day off to recharge and relax with family and then return to work recharged and ready to go.

In terms of the overall economy, having stores open on Thanksgiving isn’t likely to increase total retail sales and profits.  I suspect few consumers will spend more in total just because they can shop on Thanksgiving.  Indeed, opening on Thanksgiving might actually reduce retail profits overall; costs will go up with the incremental selling day, while sales stay fairly flat, reducing overall profit.

Nonetheless, it seems the days of the quiet Thanksgiving are almost over.  Stores are opening driven by the need to capture incremental sales.  And once the trend starts, it is hard to stop it; more and more retailers will join in as each one worries about protecting market share.  Eventually we’ll see huge Thanksgiving Day sales with incredible deals designed to get people away from the turkey, out of the house and shopping.

My advice:  don’t go shopping on Thanksgiving this year.  Enjoy the day, be thankful and relax.  Let the shopping chaos will begin on Friday.  The quiet of Thanksgiving won’t last long.

One Response

  1. CoryS says:

    With the holiday booked, I think being open on T-Day + very good online deals may have broken the magic that is shopping early on BF. e.g. When are the deals available? Why shop in store when all the deals are online?

    Very good post.

Leave a Reply


Conversation Across the Site

  • Todd { Thank you for this insight, Professor. Students rarely have any insight into the mind of a professor or teacher at any level. Come to think... }
  • Mark Sheldon { Very interesting. Thank you and I think your analysis is generally correct. The one thing I would add is that in a small zoom class... }
  • Marty { Ford , built for change ? This is the company Hank almost bankrupted by refusing to replace the model T }
  • toddholscher { If Trump had the charisma of Reagan, instead of Nixon, it would have been different. Trump was easy to vote against for enough people... this... }
  • Emita Hill { Sobering but all accurate. Happy Thanksgiving, Tim. }
  • Mark Goldman { Disagree wholeheartedly. National unity and bringing back civility to our country is most certainly a benefit -- and a strong one. Trump's pitch on law... }
  • Read more Comments »

Collaborate with Tim

Tim helps companies around the world build great brands. To schedule a program or event click here. To learn more about Tim’s books, click here.