LIMA — Thanksgiving is traditionally a time when families gather together to enjoy a hearty meal and give thanks for the blessings in their lives. But a trend that’s emerged in recent years has seemingly turned Thanksgiving into a preamble for Black Friday, with many businesses opening their doors during the holiday.
Black Friday, of course, is not just the day after Thanksgiving; it is widely considered the beginning of the Christmas shopping season. Most major retailers open in the early morning hours, and offer considerable deals on a wide selection of products.
According to the National Retail Federation, an estimated 137.4 million people — nearly six in 10 Americans — plan to or are considering shopping during Thanksgiving weekend. While the NRF acknowledges that Black Friday is still the most popular day to shop, an increasing number of companies are extending their holiday deals to Thanksgiving.
Toys R Us, for example, will open at 5 p.m. Thanksgiving day and will stay open for 30 straight hours. It is the third year in a row the company has opened its doors on the holiday.
Jessica Offerjost, a spokesperson for Toys R Us, said the decision was based on a combination of customer input and the changing retail landscape.
“The fact is, our customers really do love the fact that we are open on Thanksgiving,” Offerjost said. “By opening at 5 and continuing to be open for 30 straight hours, we’re providing customers the opportunity to shop whenever is most convenient for them.”
When asked how employees are affected by extended holiday hours, Offerjost revealed that Toys R Us workers “jump at the chance to work on Thanksgiving.” She said many employees volunteer to work the holiday, as they are paid time-and-a-half, along with other incentives.
“Our team members know and understand that this is our Super Bowl, so it’s an exciting time for us,” she said. “We have a high retention of people who volunteer year after year.”
Toys R Us isn’t the only company opening its doors on Thanksgiving. The Lima Mall, for instance, will be open from 6 p.m. Thanksgiving day to 1 a.m. Nov. 25. It will open again at 6 a.m. on Black Friday.
Chis Garlock, manager of the Lima Mall, said shoppers dictate holiday hours.
“It’s for their convenience,” Garlock said. “A lot of people are unable to celebrate Thanksgiving on the actual day, and for others, by the time the evening rolls around on Thanksgiving, most of the celebrating is done. So this gives those ‘professional shoppers,’ as I call them, a jump start on things.
“We’re here to accommodate them.”
Garlock added that the mall tries to take care of the employees who are working Thanksgiving. Workers receive holiday pay, and are often provided a free lunch or dinner.
“We try to make sure they are all taken care of,” he said. “If somebody has family plans, we don’t want them to change if they don’t want to. We have some really loyal employees, so we want to make sure they’re appreciated.”
Toys R Us and the Lima Mall join more than 30 retail outlets opening on Thanksgiving day, according to the website theblackfriday.com. However, the same website lists 50 stores that will not open on the holiday.
One of those companies is Menards, which released a statement regarding the Thanksgiving holiday.
“As a family-owned company, Menards believes that Thanksgiving is a time to celebrate with loved ones,” according to Menards’ statement. “With this in mind, we have decided to continue our tradition to stay closed on Thanksgiving Day so you and our team members can share this joyous time with family and friends.”
Gamestop released a similar statement.
“We love retail and serving our customers, but we are even more passionate about one of our core values: Protecting the family,” said Mike Buskey, executive vice president and president of U.S. stores, in an email. “We believe strongly that our associates are the heart of our company, and they and our customers should have the opportunity to spend the Thanksgiving holiday relaxing with family and friends, and not worrying where to find the best shopping deals.”
Readers of The Lima News tend to agree with companies like Gamestop and Menards, saying Thanksgiving is about spending time with family, not shopping for the hottest deals.
“It is time for family to be together, thanking God for all His blessings,” Linda Gross Clapper said on the newsrpaper’s Facebook page. “People are still going to shop throughout the long weekend on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.”
Karen Niese said stores choosing to open on the holiday have “hijacked Thanksgiving and family time.”
Regardless, Offerjost of Toys R Us said many customers — mainly the ones she calls “deal hunters” — will continue to drive the retail landscape beyond Black Friday.
“I think the Black Friday focus is no longer,” she said. “People want to be able to shop for the full month of November, so it’s more of the retail landscape shifting. It’s all customer-driven, so we want to make sure shoppers are shopping with is wherever and however they want.”
Reach John Bush at 567-242-0456 or on Twitter @bush_lima