A Target store is shown in Philadelphia on Wednesday, November 17, 2021. Target says closing its stores on Thanksgiving Day will be the new normal, definitely ending a tradition it has embraced for years. The move, announced on Monday, November 22, 2021, comes as the Minneapolis-based discounter and other retailers, including Walmart and Macy’s, will be closed for the second Thanksgiving in a row.

AP Photo / Matt Rourke

NEW YORK (AP) – Target will no longer open its stores on Thanksgiving Day, making the shift to the unofficial start of the holiday season that was suspended during the pandemic permanent.

To limit store crowds, retailers were forced last year to turn what had become a weekend shopping blitz into an extended event, with big holiday discounts starting as early as October.

This forced displacement appears to have been fortuitous.

Holiday sales in the United States in November and December were up 8.2% in 2020 from a year earlier, according to the National Retail Federation, the nation’s largest retail group. The business group predicts that 2021 could break that record, with growth between 8.5% and 10.5%.

Americans, able to get the same deals over a longer period of time and relieved of some of the stresses that come with the holidays, appeared to embrace the change, which resonated with workers as well, Target said.

“What started as a temporary pandemic-driven measure is now our new standard – one that recognizes our ability to meet the wishes of our customers during the holidays and well beyond store hours,” wrote Target CEO Brian Cornell in a note to employees. “You don’t have to wonder if this is the last Thanksgiving you’ll be spending with family and friends for awhile, because Thanksgiving store hours are something we won’t be ‘coming back to’. not when the pandemic finally subsides. “

Target is the first major retailer to make such a permanent decision during the pandemic, and its move could push other retailers to follow its path, said Ken Perkins, president of Retail Metrics, a retail research firm. He believes retailers are also looking into whether it’s worth spending money on labor and other costs to open on Thanksgiving Day, as shoppers turn more to online shopping. line and move away from physical stores.

“With all of these online shopping opportunities, is there a real need to open on Thanksgiving Day? Said Perkins.

Macy’s, which won’t open stores on Thanksgiving for the second year in a row, said its curbside pickup service will be available in select locations. He also noted that he had not announced any future plans, but “we are looking at what our clients as well as our colleagues tell us is important to them about these decisions”.

Kohl’s and Walmart will also be closed Thursday, but Walmart said it has yet to make a decision on the future of in-store shopping for Thanksgiving Day; Kohl’s declined to comment.

Target said distribution and call centers will have staff for Thanksgiving and will collect paid time off.

The holiday shopping season started creeping into Thanksgiving Day 20 years ago, when retailers started to run sales until the wee hours of the morning on Black Friday. Ten years later, Target and other department stores opened during the holidays themselves, creating a new shopping tradition.

Many have done so to compete with Amazon and other growing online threats. At its peak five years ago, about 25 chain stores drew crowds to its physical stores on Thanksgiving, according to Julie Ramhold, consumer analyst at DealNews.com.

But the change appeared to simply cannibalize the Black Friday sale, with large crowds showing up for doorstep buster deals on Thanksgiving. The shopping event thinned out further when stores began marketing Black Friday deals throughout the holiday week and then later throughout November.

Large retailers have been hit hard by critics who said thousands of people were forced to work rather than be with their families during the holidays. Crowds have also started to decline for Thanksgiving Day in recent years as well, and the number of chain stores and malls, including Mall of America in Minnesota, has ended the practice. This reduced the number of stores open during the holidays to less than 20 large chains, excluding pharmacies and grocery stores that remain open for at least a few hours.

Some, like Costco and Nordstrom, never opened their doors during the holidays, saying they wanted to respect the holidays.

Thanksgiving had historically not been a big selling day; it never makes it into the top 10 because stores usually opened around 5 p.m.

However, it was a big day of online shopping. For the past two years, the holidays have trailed only Cyber ​​Monday and Black Friday in online sales, according to Adobe’s Digital Economy Index.

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