The announcement this week by Macy’s that it will open at 8 Thanksgiving night ends a 155-year tradition by the giant retailer to close its stores on the fourth Thursday of November. Now, Macy’s joins Toys R Us, Target, Wal-Mart, Sears, and Kmart in opening its doors to shoppers Thanksgiving.
The trend toward earlier and earlier openings on the day after Thanksgiving, for what is the busiest retail shopping day of the year, started with dawn openings, then moved to pre-dawn, and then to midnight. Deep discounts and loss-leaders brought out crowds of shoppers, who would line up hours in advance.
In 2011, Toys R Us pushed the opening to Thursday night. Following its lead, other retailers quickly did the same. So rapidly has this trend grown the Society for Human Resource Management predicts the number of businesses opening on Thanksgiving 2014 will grow five fold.
For the last few years, SHRM has surveyed its members about the holidays and paid time off employees will enjoy in the coming year. Last year, SHRM’s survey of some 565 businesses found 99 percent of them expected to be closed on Thanksgiving Day 2013. On the day after, 71 percent expected to be closed.
This year’s survey reported that 5 percent of the employers expect to open Thanksgiving 2014. About 1 percent will close early that day, leaving 94 percent to observe a traditional day off. Black Friday 2014, will see 66 percent of the employers open; 32 percent will give their employees the day off.
Is this really evidence of the retail trend toward holiday openings, or just a statistical quirk? SHRM’s annual days-off survey has typically had some variability in the percentages of employers closing or opening on the nation’s religious and secular holidays. However, looking back over the surveys, the shift for Thanksgiving openings has been fairly small — not more than a single percentage point. That is until this year’s survey, which was conducted over the summer.
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The survey asked about other holidays, including the total number of paid holidays employers provide for workers. According to SHRM, 78 percent of employers provide 6-10 paid holidays for full-timers, while 41 percent offer that many for their part-timers.
In another report, this one from the global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, the outlook for seasonal hiring this year is good, but not great. The firm says retailers “are likely to at best match the level of hiring that occurred in October, November, and December 2012.” The 751,800 seasonal help hired by retailers during that period last year was the largest number since 2000, the firm reported.
“There are several factors that could keep holiday hiring from reaching last year’s level. While, the economy and job market are improving, it has now been four years since the recession officially ended and millions of Americans are still unemployed or underemployed. As a result, consumers remain uneasy, which is evidenced by wide monthly mood swings in confidence surveys,” said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.
Another factor is the shorter shopping season. There are six fewer shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year compared to last year. In addition Chanukah, the Jewish holiday of lights, which includes eight days of gift-giving, especially for children, begins the day before Thanksgiving, weeks earlier than usual.