The holidays are an extremely important time for retailers, many of which depend on holiday shoppers to meet their yearly goals. This year, the holiday season is expected to be especially strong: the National Retail Federation (NRF) forecasts retail sales during the season to rise 4.1% from last year to a total of $616.9 billion.
In recent years, however, retailers have become increasingly split on when the holiday season should start. For many retailers looking for an edge in the ultra-competitive landscape, ringing in the holiday season on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, is too late. These retailers have elected to plan major events for Thanksgiving, some starting as early as 5 p.m. Other retailers, however, have pushed back, stating publicly that they feel it is unfair to both employees and shoppers to open on a day that is meant for giving thanks and celebrating with family.
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Many retailers feel incredible pressure to open on Thanksgiving in order to capture a share of the extra money customers have saved up for the holiday season. Further, marketing for the holiday season starts even earlier. Ads for Christmas gifts, for instance, now often start before Thanksgiving, and in some cases even before Halloween. In perhaps an extreme example, Walmart (WMT), one of the retailers open on Thanksgiving, announced September 12 as the start to its holiday layaway program.
In addition to Walmart, companies that will be open on Thanksgiving include some of the nation’s largest retailers, including Target (TGT) and Macy’s (NYSE: M). Department stores such as Sears, Kmart, J.C. Penney (JCP)and Kohl’s (KSS) will also be welcoming in customers on Thanksgiving. Some specialty retailers will also be opening early, including Staples (SPLS) and Toys R’ Us. For Toys R’ Us, the holiday season is especially important. The quarter that includes holiday shopping has accounted for between 42% and 43% of its annual sales in the last three years.
Yet, many retailers will remain closed on Thanksgiving. Some simply do not feel the same level of pressure to open early for the holiday season. For instance, wholesale clubs Costco (COST), BJ’s, and Sam’s Club will all be closed. These companies rely on membership fees in addition to sales to feed their bottom lines, and thus may not feel the same pressure to be open on Thanksgiving. Additionally, home improvement giants may not feel the same pressure to be open on Thanksgiving because, unlike most retailers, the holiday season does not represent their peak sales period. Rather, for companies such as Home Depot and Lowe’s, the spring is usually the busiest time of the year.
Other retailers have elected not to open on Thanksgiving because they prefer to give employees the day off. Both Dillard’s and the TJX Companies (TJX) -- parent of T.J. Maxx, Marshalls, and HomeGoods -- have made public statements to that effect. Even some specialty retailers that largely rely on the holiday season have elected not to open on Thanksgiving. These include GameStop (GME), for which -- like Toys R’ Us -- the holiday season accounts for a disproportionate share of sales. Similarly, Barnes & Noble stores will be closed on Thanksgiving despite the fact that its retail and NOOK segments also make much of their sales during the holiday season.
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Based on public statements of major retailers, 24/7 Wall St. identified the companies opening (and closing) stores on Thanksgiving. In order to be considered, a company had to be one of the top 100 retailers by U.S. sales, as measured by the NRF. Additionally, we only considered companies with a broad nationwide presence. Restaurant companies, such as McDonald’s, and grocery stores, such as Publix, were excluded from our consideration. One parent company, Wal-Mart Stores, is listed twice: its Sam’s Club stores will be closed, while its Walmart locations will be open on Thanksgiving.
These are the 8 stores open on Thanksgiving.
In addition to hosting the iconic Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, Macy’s doorbuster sales will be available to customers starting at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving, two hours earlier than last year. At the end of its last fiscal year, Macy’s employed 172,500 full- and part-time employees. During the holidays, that number substantially. This year alone, Macy’s plans to hire 86,000 seasonal employees. The company posted net sales of $27.9 billion last year, among the higher retail sales figures nationwide. Macy’s sales have also been on an upward trajectory for several years. Including Bloomingdale’s, Macy’s operates 840 department stores across the nation.
Walmart, run by America’s wealthiest family, is the world’s single largest public employer.
Walmart’s U.S. workforce of roughly 1.4 million dwarfs that of every other American business, and a large number of U.S. Walmart employees will be at work this Thanksgiving Day. The company has not disclosed when it will kick off its Black Friday event this year, but opened at 6 p.m. last year. While kicking off the holiday shopping season a day early is a relatively recent phenomenon, Walmart has been open on Thanksgiving for the past 25 years. The mega-store’s parent company reported revenues of $476.3 billion last year, the largest of any retailer worldwide
3. Sears Holdings
Sears Holdings, the parent of Kmart and Sears, employed roughly 226,000 U.S. workers as of last year. Many of these employees will be asked to spend the Thanksgiving holiday at work this year. Doors will open at 6 p.m. on Thursday, and the doorbuster sale will continue through the night until closing time on Friday. Like several other stores opening their doors on Thanksgiving, the company’s early Black Friday sales will be critical to its annual performance. However, unlike many competitors, Sears Holdings’ long term future may be very much in flux. The company has consistently been losing money, with declining sales contributing to three consecutive fiscal years of operating losses.
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Office supply store Staples will be open this Thanksgiving from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Like several other companies, Staples will begin offering Holiday shopping deals online up to two weeks before Black Friday. Staples reported $8.9 billion in U.S. sales last year, down 6.1% from the previous year, but still among the 50 largest American retailers by sales. The company’s effort to stand out as a holiday destination comes in the wake of yet another possible data breach in the retail industry. Staples recently began an investigation to determine whether its customers' personal information had been stolen.
This year, retailer Kohl’s will add its name to the growing list of companies opening their doors at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving, two hours earlier than last year. As of February, Kohl’s employed roughly 137,000 Americans, most of which were part-time workers. Unlike employees of many other companies, none of Kohl’s employees are represented by collective bargaining agreements. At the end of its latest fiscal year, Kohls had 1,158 stores. The company reported U.S. sales of slightly more than $19 billion in 2013, down 1.3% from the year before. Opening its doors early Thanksgiving may be its attempt to boost sales.
6. J.C. Penney
Last year, J.C. Penney opened at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving. This year, the company will open its doors even earlier, at 5 p.m., it announced on Twitter. J.C. Penney has struggled with declining sales in recent years, as net sales fell from $17.3 billion in 2011 to $11.9 billion in 2013. During that time, comparable store sales fell 25% in 2012 from the year before and another 7.4% in 2013. The retailer has managed to improve its fortunes somewhat this year. In its most recent full quarter, the company reported strong sales and margins growth. However, not all recent news has been good, the company noted in October that is was lowering its sales growth estimates for the current quarter.
7. Toys R’ Us
Last year, Toys R’ Us controversially elected to open at 5 p.m. on Thanksgiving. This year, Toys R’ Us will again open at the same time. As a toy retailer, Toys R’ Us is especially reliant on the gift giving season. In the last three years, the fourth quarter of the company’s fiscal year, which includes the holiday season, has accounted for between 42% and 43% of company sales. In September, Toys R’ Us announced it would hire 45,000 seasonal employees to accommodate holiday shoppers. This addition more than doubles the size of Toys R’ Us’ U.S. workforce.
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Last year, Target had a difficult holiday season due to a data breach reported just before Christmas. This year, Target again plans to hire more than 70,000 workers, just as it did last year. The retailer also plans to again begin its Black Friday sale at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving, according to a company press release. Last year, the company opened its stores at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving. In addition to opening early, Target is offering free shipping for all online orders placed through December 20. E-commerce has been a point of emphasis for the chain. In the second quarter of fiscal 2014, digital sales were up 30% from the same quarter the year before.
Click here to see the 10 stores closed on Thanksgiving.