Retailers Are Finally Realizing That Starting Black Friday on Thanksgiving Is a Terrible Idea
Retailers have officially lost the so-called war on Thanksgiving.
An increasing number of retailers are closing on Thanksgiving Day this year in response to backlash against the trend of starting Black Friday sales a day early.
CBL & Associates, the operator of 89 regional malls and shopping centers, announced it would close 73 of its locations on Thanksgiving Day and not open until 6 a.m. on Black Friday, CNBC reported. Last year, the mall operator opened at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving.
The Mall of America, which has opened on Thanksgiving for the past four years, will be closed on the holiday this year.
Costco, Home Depot and REI have already announced their plans to stay closed on the holiday as well.
Many retailers say the decision to close is motivated by the fact that Thanksgiving is a day that's meant to be spent at home with family.
"We think Thanksgiving is a day for families and for people we care about," Jill Renslow, the Mall of America's senior vice president of marketing, told The Associated Press of the mall's decision to close on Thanksgiving. "We want to give this day back."
But the real reason stores are staying closed may have more to do with money.
Black Friday sales have fallen in recent years, decreasing 12 percent to $10.2 billion in 2015 from 2014, according to ShopperTrak. Looking at the entire four-day weekend, brick-and-mortar retail sales fell by 10.4 percent, to $20.4 billion last year.
Black Friday is even at risk of losing the title of the biggest shopping day of the year. RetailNext, a firm that tracks retail shopper traffic, is predicting that the biggest shopping day this year in terms of sales will be Friday, Dec. 23 -- just two days before Christmas.
Thanksgiving Day isn't even expected to be among the 10 biggest days for shopping, according to the firm.
Retailers are hoping that by holding off on Black Friday sales until the day after Thanksgiving, they may be able to keep the shopping frenzy alive.
"Black Friday historically has been such a great shopping day," CBL CEO Stephen Lebovitz told CNBC. "It's lost its luster because we've diluted it ... We want to bring back Black Friday and make it fun."
That luster is especially important because it makes Black Friday more than just a day of sales but also an in-store experience -- something customers can avoid when shopping online.
Last year, Americans spent more than $3 billion on Cyber Monday, an increase of 16 percent from the prior year.
If customers don't have much of an interest in shopping on Thanksgiving, retailers don't have much to lose by opening six to 12 hours later. In fact, because of a backlash against opening on Thanksgiving, they have the chance to avoid bad press and get a public-relations boost by respecting employees' holidays.
"Stores are opening on Thanksgiving Day in the pursuit of ever bigger holiday profits," said the Target petition, which has more than 100,000 signatures. "This comes at the expense of retail workers, who will spend the day at work instead of with their families. It's time to return Black Friday to its rightful place: Friday."
Walmart, Target, Macy's and Best Buy all kicked off their Black Friday sales on Thanksgiving Day last year. They have yet to announce their plans for 2016.