The vast majority of Americans — 84% — are against or indifferent to retailers opening on Thanksgiving, according to a study from holiday deals site BestBlackFriday, which surveyed 523 adults. Nearly 60% don’t agree with stores opening on Thanksgiving, up from 55% last year. Of those opposed to the idea, 37% "strongly disagree," compared to 21% who just "disagree."
Most consumers are putting their money where their feelings are: 64% say they won't shop at all on Thanksgiving, up from 60% last year, while 13% will shop online only, 11% will shop in-store only and 11% will shop on both channels, Best Black Friday found.
Not all Americans are against the idea. Some 17% agree with stores opening on Thanksgiving, although that’s down from the 18% who felt that way last year. Of those just 6% "strongly favor" it, compared to 11% who just "favor" it.
Stores opening on Thanksgiving is a relatively new phenomenon over the last few years, but several retailers have retreated from the idea as Americans increasingly view that as tainting a family-oriented holiday that is celebrated without regard to ethnicity, politics or creed.
Thanksgiving openings proliferated even as e-commerce sales have: Americans are expected to spend around $2.05 billion this year on that day online alone. Yet several retailers — including (according to Best Black Friday and the retailers themselves) Bass Pro Shops, Belk, Big Lots, Five Below, GameStop, J.C. Penney, Kohl’s, Macy’s, Michaels, Rite Aid, Shopko, Target Walmart, Toys R Us and Best Buy — are unlocking their doors, despite the negative sentiment.
"The backlash against stores opening on Thanksgiving is really affecting the medium-tier stores more," Best Black Friday co-owner Phil Dengler told Retail Dive in an email. "Shoe Carnival, Sears Hometown Store and Stein Mart will all be closed this year after being open last year, and it is likely due to pressure from both employees and unhappy customers. The major retailers, including Walmart, Best Buy and Target, have pretty much proven to be immune from any negative effects from the anti-Thanksgiving shopping crowd."
But being open on Thanksgiving is actually a symptom of a problem for retailers that goes beyond sales, cautions retail prophet Doug Stephens, author of "Reengineering Retail: The Future of Selling in a Post-Digital World," who compared the move to the use of a substance that may feel good but is hardly good for you. "Brands that have become addicted need more and more every year," he warned in an email to Retail Dive. "And like any addiction it takes courage and willpower to break it."
While Toys R Us and Target are responding to consumer demand by opening on the holiday, Stephens said the move isn't necessary. "With Black Friday quickly becoming Black November, any sense of urgency to buy that shoppers might have had has all but vanished," Stephens said. "The bottom line is that if your brand is so uninspiring ten months out of the year that you have to slash your prices, degrade your brand and abuse your employees in the last two months to make your numbers you’re dead already. You just don’t know it yet."