Target announced today (Nov. 22) that it’s putting a permanent end to what had previously been a beloved holiday tradition for some shoppers: Getting a head start on Black Friday shopping by showing up to the store on Thanksgiving.
The retailer won’t open its doors on Thanksgiving Day this year, and will remain closed on the holiday for the foreseeable future. While Target closed its stores last Thanksgiving over public health concerns surrounding the covid-19 pandemic, CEO Brian Cornell said in a note to employees that this temporary measure would now become a permanent one.
“You don’t have to wonder whether this is the last Thanksgiving you’ll spend with family and friends for a while, because Thanksgiving store hours are one thing we won’t ‘get back to’ when the pandemic finally subsides,” Cornell said in the note, which was obtained by Axios. Some Target distribution and call centers will remain open on the holiday.
Target was once a major destination for early Black Friday shoppers
Target was part of a group of US retailers that began opening their physical stores on Thanksgiving about a decade ago to compete for sales ahead of Black Friday. As more stores started opening for early-bird customers it wasn’t unusual to see shoppers camped out on the sidewalks outside of Toys R Us, Best Buy, or Target in the hopes of snagging the best deals on the newest video game consoles or flat-screen televisions.
But companies saw plenty of backlash to their efforts to capitalize on Black Friday, too. Anthony Hardwick, an employee at a Target store in Omaha, Nebraska, started a Change.org petition in 2011 asking the retailer to “save Thanksgiving” by allowing employees to celebrate the holiday with their families before showing up to work the next day. It garnered more than 190,000 signatures, but by the next year some Target locations were opening as early as 9pm on Thanksgiving evening.
By 2018, major retailers were moving away from Thanksgiving Day openings as online shopping became more popular and foot traffic at physical stores during the holiday weekend decreased. The covid-19 pandemic accelerated this trend, and last year stores including Walmart and BestBuy were closed on the holiday due to the coronavirus outbreak. Target is the first major retailer to announce it will permanently shift to Thanksgiving Day closures, but others, like Kohl’s and Walmart, will also stay closed on the holiday this year.
Frenzied Thanksgiving Day shopping is becoming a trend of the past
It seems retail’s shift to e-commerce may finally sound the death knell for the frenzied and at times dangerous tradition of flooding stores in search of the best holiday deals. Last year online spending during Black Friday rose by 22% from 2019, according to the research firm Adobe Analytics, marking the second-best online shopping day ever tracked by the firm. Meanwhile foot traffic in brick-and-mortar stores decreased significantly: The retail analytics group Sensormatic Solutions saw foot traffic drop by 52% on Black Friday compared to the previous year, and by nearly 95% on Thanksgiving Day. While these trends were certainly driven in part by the pandemic, Sensormatic had tracked a year-over-year decline in foot traffic on these two days as far back as 2013.
Regardless of how retailers hope to reach shoppers this year, it seems Thanksgiving may be the least opportune window. A recent survey by the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics found 30.6 million Americans plan to shop in-store or online on Thanksgiving Day, but far more plan to shop on either Black Friday (108 million) or Cyber Monday (62.8 million).