Eleven brands opened their doors on Thanksgiving Day this year, requiring millions of employees to report to work on the national holiday. Many businesses believe that opening on Thanksgiving will boost overall holiday sales by getting shoppers in ahead of the official start to Black Friday.
But this year’s sales data show it was mostly a dud. The number of customers in stores on Thanksgiving stayed flat as compared to last year, when shoppers who went to stores on the holiday didn’t show up on Black Friday. Meanwhile, sales data from ShopperTrak showed that Thanksgiving itself only generated $1.8 billion, compared to $10.4 billion on Black Friday. Even more disappointing was that the total for both days was depressed compared to last year: RetailNext data showed overall sales for the two days fell 1.5 percent and average spending per shopper also declined 1.4 percent.
That doesn’t mean holiday shopping overall was a total dud; much of it has simply shifted online. More than 103 million people shopped online on Thanksgiving Day, more than the under 102 million who went to stores, according to the National Retail Federation. And according to sales data from Adobe Digital Index, online sales hit a record $7.2 billion between Thanksgiving and Black Friday, up more than 14 percent over last year.
That data confirms that brands don’t need to have employees show up to stores to generate holiday sales on Thanksgiving Day — they can simply offer discounts online. Stores can also generate good will by staying closed on the holiday, preserving their employees’ ability to spend it with family and friends, and avoid the hundreds of online petitions that sprung up this year protesting holiday hours. Online petition site Change.org said the number of petitions related to Thanksgiving hours increased to at least 123, compared to 73 last year, the largest of which had more than 100,000 signatures. Others were created on Coworker.org.
Eighteen brands decided to take advantage of that goodwill and remain closed on Thanksgiving Day, at least one of whom — Staples — had in previous years been open.