On Thursday, most Americans will gather together with family and friends to have dinner and celebrate Thanksgiving. But not everyone will be able to enjoy the holiday the way they’d like.
Eleven brands say they will be open on Thanksgiving this year, requiring millions of workers to show up for shifts during the national holiday.
Many brands claim they try to staff these shifts with volunteers or seasonal employees. But their workers often tell a different story. At Kmart, for example, many said their managers never gave anyone an opportunity to volunteer, nor could employees request time off or specific shifts. Instead, they’ve been told when they will work on the holiday without any willingness to accommodate their schedules, and some say that they’ve been told they risk being fired if they call out for a scheduled shift. Target employees reported similar experiences last year. Low-income workers, as those in retail, are also less likely to be offered paid holiday and vacation time they could use to take the day off anyway.
But even as some stores will stretch their hours into the holiday, others have decided to do the opposite. Staples, which had even been open on Thanksgiving last year, changed its mind this year and decided to close. Seventeen other brands will also be closed on the holiday.
Some companies have explicitly said that they will close in order to let employees be home with friends and family. Staples said, “We want our customers and associates to enjoy Thanksgiving their own way” by closing. “Family time is extremely important to us, and we want our associates to enjoy the holiday with their loved ones,” DSW said. TJ Maxx, Marshalls, and HomeGoods will close “so our Associates can enjoy the holiday with family and friends.” GameStop explained, “We believe strongly that our customers and associates should have the opportunity to spend the Thanksgiving holiday relaxing with family and friends.”
And REI has gone the furthest, promising not just to be closed on Thanksgiving but also on Black Friday, giving its employees a paid day off to enjoy the outdoors.
There’s little evidence that staying open on Thanksgiving helps increase retailers’ holiday sales. Instead, last year’s numbers show that shoppers simply shifted purchases they would have made on Black Friday to Thanksgiving, with no net increase. There is also a potential public relations pitfall, as consumers have said they strongly disapprove of being open.