Why Malls Should Be Closed For Thanksgiving - Being Open Punishes Small Retailers

By Bob Phibbs

malls and retail stores being open Thanksgiving

It’s mid-October.

Time for changing leaves.

Time for Pumpkin Spiced Everything.

Time for my Facebook feed to be jammed with people liking and commenting that retailers should be closed for Thanksgiving. Like this to send a message. Sign this petition.

If it isn’t that issue, it’s people sharing pictures of signs inside Nordstrom that say they won’t be open Thanksgiving and won’t be decorating their stores until after.

Nordstrom isn’t open that day, but their employees are working to decorate their stores. Let that sink in.

While this holiday season has two additional shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and the start of Hanukkah and Christmas Eve overlap ... on a Saturday ... the biggest shopping day of the week, and there’s a bunch of positive economic indicators, you could almost feel what’s wrong with wanting holiday merchandise to stay away until after Thanksgiving?

Plenty as I wrote in this post Why Retailers Should Display Christmas Merchandise Before Halloween.

The upshot is that there are only 30 days to move seasonal merchandise. Like milk left in the fridge too long, once the merchandise goes past the sell date, it gets stale and worthless.

And frankly, who are you to tell retailers they can’t have holiday merchandise for sale for people who want it?

Lowes sells snow blowers starting in September where I live. While I might not like the reality of the message – a cold and snowy winter is close – no one gets upset about those.

Anyways, back to being open on Thanksgiving.

A few years ago Macy’s and Wal-Mart were among the first to open on Thanksgiving as they said, due to demand. When the final results were tallied, they usually reported that all that did was spread out the customers; they rang up as many tickets over four days as they previously did in three.

But that didn’t stop them from continuing the madness and other majors joined in. But that magnified the problem for smaller retailers in the malls.

When the majors in a mall announce they will be open longer hours, mall contracts require the rest of the tenants to be open the same hours.

Makes sense in their eyes right? We can’t have a mostly closed mall.

The problem is those discount shoppers are there for the flat screen TV at $50 or for the slipper 2-four-1 sale or other greatly reduced fare from the majors.  They aren’t going into the smaller retailers who have to begrudgingly be open to pay full price or get a paltry 10% off.

Yet the smaller retailer has to pay employees to be there. That, or pay a fine to the mall. Either way, it is not a business builder as much as a money suck.

Smaller retailers have less staff to begin with. Adding an additional 2 people to cover 9 hours of dead time is costly.  Sure, you could say they could decorate the store during that time. Ho, ho, ho – I’m sure they feel jolly and full of holiday spirit.

Major chains routinely offer time-and-a-half on those days to entice employees to work on the holiday and their employees report, for the most part, they like the extra pay.  But there is no federal or state law I’m familiar with that mandates an employer pay an employee a premium for work performed on holidays.

That means for smaller stores, trying to find employees to work on Thanksgiving is difficult. In fact, it’s not unusual for the owner to work.

Why do so many malls still open themselves up to bad PR from millions of Americans offended by the encroachment of seasonal shopping on this national, non-religious, family-oriented holiday?

As Fortune magazine noted here, “in 2014, sales on Thanksgiving/Black Friday fell 11%, primarily because retailers started their sales in early November, diluting the weekend’s impact. And last year, for the first time, more shoppers went online than to stores, mitigating the benefit to being open for so many hours.”

The good news is the Mall of America, the USA’s #1 mall with 520 stores, made the bold announcement to close this Thanksgiving. Let’s hope it is a trend.

See also, How To Use AMEX Small Business Saturday To Grow Holiday Retail Sales

In Sum

Malls can be heroes and follow the Mall of America has done, close for Thanksgiving and let the independent retailers stay home. 

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