While major retailers claim they are catering to demand from shoppers by starting holiday sales on Thanksgiving Day, the prospect of a family holiday for employees is being damaged, some analysts say.
‚??These retailers are opening themselves to a potential backlash from the decision to open on what many consider to be a day that is best spent with family, reflecting on all that we are thankful for,‚?Ě said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. in Chicago.
‚??Not only is there the risk of creating disgruntled workers, who feel they have no choice but to accept the holiday hours in this economy, but in the wake of the worst recession since the Great Depression, some Americans have soured on the corporate excess and the profits-at-any-cost mentality that some say helped hasten the economic meltdown.‚?Ě
Walmart, Target and Boscov‚??s are among the stores that will open on Thanksgiving Day, some as early as 6 a.m.
Tim Kearney, a professor of finance and business at Misericordia University in Dallas Township, said he doesn‚??t believe the Thanksgiving openings will lead to higher sales. But he understands why companies are choosing to open earlier.
‚??All of the sellers keep an eye on each other,‚?Ě he said, and if sales rise for those that open earlier other stores will follow suit. He said consumers can influence future Black Friday schedules by opting not to shop on Thursday.
‚??If the consumers don‚??t show up, the tradition goes away,‚?Ě Kearney said.
Not all retailers chose to follow the trend. Burlington Coat Factory, JCPenney, Home Depot, Lowe‚??s and Staples are among those waiting to open until Friday at dawn or later.
Fred Hand, executive vice president of store operations for Burlington Coat Factory, said the decision came down to respecting the holiday.
‚??Many retailers have decided to open their stores on Thanksgiving Day this Black Friday. But at Burlington, we decided to respect the holiday by giving our associates the opportunity to relax and enjoy the day with their family and friends and will remain closed in observance of the holiday,‚?Ě Hand said.
Burlington stores will open at 6 a.m. on Friday.
Ann Marie Bishop, a JCPenney spokeswoman, said, ‚??We don‚??t think customers have to stay up late or wake up early to get a great deal. From 6 a.m. to 11 p.m., we will have some of the lowest prices out there on popular gift items for the entire family.‚?Ě
While employees at those stores will be able to enjoy Thanksgiving with their families, others in the retail sector won‚??t be as fortunate.
The early openings led to a petition urging one major chain not to open Thursday and a potential walkout by employees of another.
Federal labor officials said Monday they will decide whether to support a request by Wal-Mart Stores Inc. to stop a union-backed group from encouraging worker walkouts at hundreds of stores on Friday, according to the Associated Press.
One of Wal-Mart‚??s chief competitors, Target, is dealing with employee backlash of its own.
Target employee Casey St. Clair, of Corona, Calif., started an online petition urging people to sign and send a letter to Target CEO Gregg W. Steinhafel urging a halt to what she calls ‚??Thanksgiving Creep.‚?Ě More than 366,000 people had signed the petition through Tuesday evening.
A similar petition created last year by Anthony Hardwick, of Omaha, Neb., garnered hundreds of thousands of signatures but didn‚??t make a difference as Target went forward with a midnight opening.
A Target official said the earlier opening this year was seen as a way to meet customer requests to permit family shopping that didn‚??t occur too late at night or too early in the morning.
‚??We heard from our guests that they look forward to kicking off their holiday shopping with deal-hunting on Thanksgiving night. Opening at 9 p.m. gives Target‚??s Black Friday guests a more convenient way to create an after-dinner shopping event that the entire family can enjoy,‚?Ě said Kathee Tesija, a Target executive vice president.
Kearney said he could understand why some shoppers will turn out for promised Thanksgiving Day bargains.
‚??You can really save and those savings are real, hard money to these people,‚?Ě Kearney said.