Many local retailers vow no Thanksgiving sales

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

Many local retailers vow no Thanksgiving sales

Jon Chavez

The Blade, Toledo, Ohio

When asked about whether he should open his Appliance Center Home Center store in Maumee on Thanksgiving Day, owner John Oswald at first responds politely, but after a bit, his frustration with the growing shopping creep into the traditional holiday firmly takes hold.

"What do we gain? What's the point? And what's next? Christmas? Is anything else sacred?" Mr. Oswald said.

"We just celebrated our 50th anniversary this summer, and with 100 employees and knowing many of them for decades, there's no way in the world we'd ever ask them, for the first time, to not spend time with their families on Thanksgiving," Mr. Oswald said. "They only get three holidays every year. To take this one away from them would just be something we'd never do. We feel good about not asking this, and I think the employees appreciate it."

Two years ago, two national retailers opened at midnight on Thanksgiving. Last year, Sears and Target broke the Thanksgiving Day shopping taboo by opening at 8 p.m. and 9 p.m.

This year, the decision by retailers to be open Thanksgiving Day resembled the Oklahoma land rush.

The list of those with hours today includes Meijer, Walmart, Kmart, Gabriel Brothers, Toys R Us, Best Buy, Target, JCPenney, Kohl's, Macy's, Sears, Elder-Beerman, Walgreen's, CVS, Rite Aid, Giant Eagle, Kroger, Old Navy, Gander Mountain, Bass Pro Shops, Michael's, Dick's Sporting Goods, Office Depot, and OfficeMax.

The National Retail Federation is predicting 33 million shoppers nationwide could be out on Thanksgiving furiously hunting for bargains. And there's an equally long list of retailers planning to open at midnight on Friday to capture some of those shoppers already out and about.

While the decision to cut into a traditional holiday appears to have gained serious momentum this year, there is a fairly vocal group of retailers who appears to be taking a stand against Black Friday creep.

Resisting the pressure to join their competitors, this minority is pressing ahead with traditional plans to open Friday morning.

Locally, the move is being spearheaded by Appliance Center and The Andersons. But other major retailers are standing firm with them, including Costco, Dillard's, Art Van Furniture, Home Depot, Bed Bath & Beyond, Lowe's, TJ Maxx, and Nordstrom, who have made it clear they don't want to push sales into today for the sake of both their employees and customers.

Dillard's will keep all its 299 stores closed today to honor its employees, a spokesman told USA Today. Home Depot is keeping its nearly 2,000 stores closed because "this isn't our make-or-break season like it is for many retailers," a spokesman told the publication.

Mr. Oswald of Appliance Center said it is probably hard for publicly traded retail chains to resist opening on Thanksgiving, knowing Wall Street will look closely at their sales. Privately owned stores don't face the same pressure.

"The thing is, you don't always have to go after that dollar first," he said. "Look at Nordstrom and Costco. They're publicly owned, but they held back. They do appreciate the situation, and I'm sure their customers appreciate what they've done."

Costco's position was "pretty simple and straightforward," said Richard Galanti, chief financial officer and executive vice president.

"We think our employees work hard, and and we think it's the right thing to do," he said.

"Our view is, there's plenty of time to shop before and after Thanksgiving and the holidays. At some point, you just have to say, 'Enough,' " Mr. Galanti said, citing several employee emails thanking the company for its decision to spurn the trend and stay closed.

John Hoover, director of marketing for The Andersons, said that as a family-run operation, it was an easy call to tell its employees to stay home today and be with their families.

"We just believe in that philosophy," Mr. Hoover said. "Unfortunately, I think you've seen a lot of other retailers get aggressive with their marketing rush."

However, The Andersons is confident that their continued strategy of opening at 7 a.m. Friday best suits their customers, he added.

"We're very content, if you will, with our strategy and operations as we've set up for the holiday," Mr. Hoover said.

Art Van Furniture, a new retailer to the Toledo area, felt the pressure to open today but decided it was not worth the effort. The only one of its 35 stores that will be open today is one in a mall in Michigan that will open on Thanksgiving and requested that Art Van open its store today.

"Our philosophy, personally, is that Mr. [Art] Van Elslander doesn't think it's a great idea. But he also respects what the consumer demands and what the market is out there. Right now, though, we have opted not to open until Black Friday," spokesman Diane Charles said.

"I did notice that we have six less shopping days [between Thanksgiving and Christmas] this year," Mrs. Charles said. "I understand people wanting to open on Thanksgiving, but I think, quite frankly, we felt that there'd be some backlash."

David Wooten, an associate professor of marketing at the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business, said we could see Black Friday shopping split into two groups -- those who really enjoy the shopping experience and want to begin on Thursday, and those who never got up early for Friday-morning specials and prefer that stores stay closed on Thanksgiving.

"I'm not a big fan of the [open on Thanksgiving] trend," Mr. Wooten said. "But it is forcing people to change what they do. I don't know how many will do it."

Mr. Wooten said there eventually could be a backlash to the change. "Part of the evening for some is clipping coupons and sitting and planning strategy for the next day," he said.

"Now they would have to do more of the planning even earlier. The long waiting in line is where it's going to be most problematic," Mr. Wooten said. "In order to shop now, they'd have to give up their Thanksgiving rituals, and we'll all have to see how that plays out."

As for retailers, the more that open on Thanksgiving, the more their advantages lessens.

"My own hope is that this doesn't work out," Mr. Wooten said. "Because if everyone follows suit and opens on Thanksgiving, then no one benefits. And if there's no competitive advantage, why do it?"

Contact Jon Chavez at: or 419-724-6128.


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