Valerie Brunmeier of San Jose plans a festive feast for her family on Thanksgiving but two of her sons will have to hustle off to their retail jobs at local malls later that night.
"How do you relax when you know you're heading out the door at 10 p.m. or so to go to work, and work all night long?" she said.
This year more big-box stores than ever are opening on Thanksgiving
night to get a leg up on Black Friday, the traditional kickoff to the
holiday shopping season.
Target, Best Buy, Kohl's, Gap, Walmart, Toys R Us and Macy's are
among the major retailers that plan to fling open their doors early this
season. Some stores plan to open at 8 or 9 p.m. Thursday, while others
will open a few hours later at the stroke of midnight, trying to
jump-start sales amid an uncertain economic climate.
But the early openings have prompted a backlash by consumers and
store employees, who say Thanksgiving should be reserved for family
time, and it's unfair to compel people to work on a major holiday.
Anthony Hardwick, a Target employee in Omaha, Neb., started a
petition on Change.org protesting the chain's plan to open at midnight
on Thanksgiving. It went viral, attracting more than 180,000 signatures
as of Friday afternoon, and has spurred dozens of copycat petitions
addressing other stores.
"A midnight opening robs the hourly and in-store salary workers of time off with their families on Thanksgiving Day," it says.
Target, which has found itself the subject of dozens of media reports
on the backlash, issued a lengthy Q&A about Black Friday. It said
the midnight opening was prompted by feedback that some customers prefer
to shop that night rather than waking up early for crack-of-dawn sales.
"Opening at midnight on Black Friday wasn't a decision we took
lightly," wrote Tina Schiel, Target executive vice president of stores.
"We heard from our guests and talked to our teams, seeking to understand
how changing the hours would impact them. We heard overwhelming support
for the earlier opening."
Helen Bulwik, president of New Market Solutions, a retail consultancy
in Oakland, didn't mince words about the backlash, using the words
"ridiculous" and "insane" to describe it.
"The reality is, a business needs to have the hours it needs to
have," she said. "To try to dictate when a store can open just makes no
sense. We want people to buy and we want people to have jobs."
In the face of high unemployment, "retailers will have to struggle for every single dollar they bring in," she said.
Hence the Thanksgiving openings.
"They're totally based on getting a competitive advantage," Bulwik
said. "We all know that people are not buying as much and there may be
fewer people buying. Stores are trying to be the first movers to capture
The National Retail Federation expects holiday sales this year to hit
$465.6 billion, up 2.8 percent from last year. That growth slightly
outpaces the average holiday sales annual increase of 2.6 percent, NRF
said, but lags last year's 5.2 percent increase from 2009.
Black Friday deals
Black Friday weekend (Friday through Sunday), when stores trot out
special deals on everything from cell phones to scooters to sweaters,
will draw 152 million people, up from 138 million last year, according
to a survey commissioned by the trade group.
"We fully expect to see excited shoppers as early as midnight at
stores around the country, as many holiday shoppers would rather stay up
all night to take advantage of retailers' Black Friday deals rather
than set their alarm to wake up the next morning," NRF CEO Matthew Shay
said in a statement.
But a number of Bay Area residents said they would opt out of Thanksgiving shopping and hoped stores would too.
"Particularly on a day when we're supposed to be thankful for what we
have, to open a place to go and get more stuff seems to be against the
spirit of Thanksgiving," said Ally Press of San Francisco, who works in
online marketing and signed the Change.org petition. "It's excessive."
Brunmeier, the San Jose woman whose sons must work early Black Friday
shifts, is part of an online movement called "Respect the Bird,"
started by cooking site AllRecipes.com, that seeks to keep December
holidays from overshadowing Thanksgiving.
"We want to get rid of that whole thing about having Christmas music starting in stores in October," she said.
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