America’s two biggest mall developers are keeping their shopping centers open on Thanksgiving Day: Simon Property Group told Fortune that most of its properties nationwide will open at 6pm on Thanksgiving, and rival General Growth Properties also said its malls would be open on the holiday.
While several retailers will host Thanksgiving Day hours (Macy’s is going so far as opening even earlier this year), several retailers and regional mall operator CBL & Associates Properties have made a point of closing on the holiday, while outdoor retailer REI has taken that a step further to close on Black Friday as well.
Malls are struggling to drive customer traffic and boost revenues: Many observers expect a third or more of malls in the U.S. to close as the market corrects for both an overbuilt environment and the toll taken by online commerce.
Simon and GGP in past years have faced protests from consumers and employees for sullying the Thanksgiving holiday with retail. The move to stay open is curious and possibly desperate: Research has consistently shown that Black Friday weekend sales don’t budget much no matter the days that retailers are open, and much of the shopping that Americans do that weekend is increasingly accomplished online anyway.
It’s not clear that the retailers and malls staying open have truly figured out that opening on Thanksgiving is worth the inevitable backlash — live protests and criticism on social media have already begun for stores and malls planning to open on Thanksgiving, while the Mall of America and the retailers planning to stay shuttered have drawn praise.
Executives from the Mall of America, the country’s largest mall, said earlier this month that it has crunched the numbers and decided that opening wasn’t worth it. “We’ve been talking about this for months, looking at the numbers, looking at the pros and the cons,” Jill Renslow, the mall’s senior vice president of marketing and business development, told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. “We’re excited to give this day back to our employees so they can celebrate with their families.”
But while there are plenty of objections to the idea, the fact is that many consumers do show up to shop on Thanksgiving. According to a survey conducted by shopping resource BestBlackFriday.com, more than a quarter of U.S. consumers said that they would shop in stores on Thanksgiving Day, while 14% said they would shop online only.
This story is part of our ongoing coverage of the 2016 holiday shopping season. You can browse our holiday page for more stories.