Workers beef about retailers opening on holiday [Boston Herald]By Donna Goodison, Boston HeraldMcClatchy-Tribune Information Services
Nov. 20--Thanksgiving could soon be Black Thanksgiving.
The list of retailers opening on Thanksgiving this year has grown to include Target, Toys 'R' Us, Kmart, Sears, Walmart, Old Navy, Gap and Banana Republic.
The trend has sparked backlash from employees -- online petitions, worker walkouts and protests -- but new data indicates adverse reactions likely will be offset by cold hard cash.
Seventeen percent of consumers -- some 41 million people -- plan to shop on Thanksgiving, according to a survey released yesterday by the International Council of Shopping Centers and Goldman Sachs. That compares to 80.5 million who plan to shop on Black Friday.
"The main reason cited ... was that it would be an earlier opportunity to find bargains," ICSC chief economist Michael Niemira said. "The second, third and fourth reasons ... were that it is something to do; that it is an easier time of day to shop; and that they expect crowds will be smaller than on Black Friday."
Massachusetts' "blue laws" prevent most retailers from opening local stores on Thanksgiving.
Consumers are driving the Thanksgiving openings, according to Kantar Retail analyst Leon Nicholas. "With the availability of the Internet now giving people deals sooner rather than later, the stores are responding to that, but this is what shoppers want," he said. "If they didn't want it, they wouldn't show up."
Nicholas acknowledged it's become a public relations problem for some retailers, however. "Walmart is pretty concerned about that right now and potentially alienating not only employees ... but also annoying the public," he said. "But the complainers are matched by those consumers in the stores ready to get the deals."
Thanksgiving openings are among complaints that have led to walkouts by Walmart employees, and planned strikes and nationwide Black Friday protests at Walmarts, including in Massachusetts.
Target, which is new to Thanksgiving openings this year, has devoted a web page to its decision. It's also the target of an online petition by a California employee, who's calling on it to "take the high road and to save Thanksgiving." The petition has garnered 366,000-plus signatures.
"We respect that our guests have a variety of thoughts on the subject," Target spokeswoman Molly Snyder said. "However, the holiday season is highly competitive. ... Our opening time this year reflects the feedback we have heard from our guests. Many prefer to shop following their family gatherings rather than in the very early hours of the morning."
But retailers such as Westboro's BJ's Wholesale Club and New Jersey's Burlington Coat Factory are using updates about their Black Friday plans to make note of Thanksgiving as a time for families and their employees to relax.
"We've never been open on Thanksgiving," BJ's spokeswoman Kelly McFalls said. "We've always had leadership that believed that holiday times are time for family."
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