Retailers on Thanksgiving: To open or not to open?
As Thanksgiving approaches, many families contemplate how to prepare their 15-pound turkey, what they're thankful for and how to avoid an unpleasant situation with an uncle or niece who has divergent political views.
But for retailers, the calculus is on preparing staff for one — or for some chains, two — of the busiest shopping days of the year.
Some stores opt to close on Thanksgiving so employees can observe the holiday with their families, while others open around the dinner hour, arguing there is customer demand.
"I think it's ridiculous if stores (employees) have to work on Thanksgiving," said Liz Peysakhov, supervisor at H&M in the Crystal Mall. She likes the concept of Black Friday but noted, "I just feel on Thanksgiving, everyone needs a day to be thankful for what they have and take a break."
H&M won't be open on Thanksgiving, though Crystal Mall will open at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving, close at 1 a.m., reopen at 6 a.m. and then close at 9 p.m. Friday.
Some stores will take the H&M route and remain closed on Thanksgiving, while others are opening earlier than the mall: J.C. Penney is opening at 2 p.m. on Thursday, while Macy's is opening at 5 p.m.
Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Maine are the three states where "blue laws" restrict most retailers from opening on Thanksgiving.
Chris Bastien, general manager of Crystal Mall, noted that he doesn't force any stores to open, that those decisions come from the home offices of many stores.
He said the mall opens early to accommodate different schedules of shoppers and to act as a social gathering place.
In his 17 years working for Simon Malls, Bastien said he's learned that "customers are demanding, and they want to be able to shop at different hours, and for different things at different times, and we're in the business of providing a great experience for our customers."
Sayra Leffert, a J.C. Penney employee, has heard the opposite: Some customers have told her they love the commotion of Black Friday, and opening earlier is "ruining it."
She was off on Thanksgiving last year but is scheduled to work this year, she said. Considering her son is coming home from college and she is usually the one cooking for the whole family, Leffert would rather work 24 hours on Black Friday than work Thanksgiving.
She acknowledges that working in retail means sacrificing holidays, adding, "Our hearts prefer to be with our relatives, but we gotta do what we have to do."
At Victoria's Secret, Krystle Arce asked for Thanksgiving off and is happy her request was granted, so she can visit her family three hours away in Massachusetts. She'll be back working a long day on Black Friday.
She said working Black Friday is busy, fun and exciting, saying everyone is there with a positive attitude and that store employees are a family of their own.
Peysakhov said H&M had a DJ last year to pump up employees, and sometimes they would throw glitter on themselves.
Handmade cosmetics store Lush, which has a location at Mohegan Sun, is offering hectic shoppers a chance to relax with a free hand and arm massage, spokesperson Kat Poulos said.
"There's nothing worse than having a cramped hand while carrying your shopping bags!" she said in an email.
Any Lush shops located in a casino must follow opening and closing hours assigned from the higher property management team, and so Lush will be open normal hours on Thanksgiving (10 a.m. to 10 p.m.) and extended hours on Black Friday (10 a.m. to midnight), according to Poulos.
At Tanger Outlets Foxwoods, stores will be open from 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving through 11 p.m. Black Friday.
"Shopping on Thanksgiving and Black Friday, it's really become a fun event for friends and family," said general manager John Dolishny. "We provide a lot of people with an enjoyable environment for dedicated shoppers on Thanksgiving night, so it's really an ideal place for a post-dinner tradition."
The Walmart stores in Waterford and Groton will be open 24 hours.
"Just like restaurants, gas stations, airlines and other grocery stores, we are part of the service industry and remain open as a service to our customers on Thanksgiving," Walmart spokesman Ryan Curell said in an email. "We are the largest grocer in the U.S. and are open for customers who may have forgotten ingredients for their Thanksgiving meal."
Stores that open for several hours on Thanksgiving but close for at least a few hours overnight include Target, Bed Bath & Beyond, Michael's and Dick's Sporting Goods. Other retailers, such as T.J. Maxx and Eastern Mountain Sports, are closed on the holiday.
The Facebook group Boycott Black Thursday has garnered more than 140,000 likes, and Labor 411 has more than 76,000 signatures on its petition "Tell Walmart, Target and Toys R Us to Give Their Employees Thanksgiving Day Off."
Crystal Mall: Opens at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving, closes at 1 a.m., reopens at 6 a.m. and then closes at 9 p.m. Friday.
Tanger Outlets Foxwoods: Open from 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving through Black Friday at 11 p.m.
JCPenney: Opens at 2 p.m. Thursday
Macy's: Opens at 5 p.m. Thursday
Target: Open 6 p.m. Thursday to 1 a.m. Friday, and open 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday
Toys R Us: Open 5 p.m. Thursday through 11 p.m. Friday
Kohl's: Open 5 p.m. Thursday through midnight on Friday
Walmart: Open 24 hours Thursday and Friday
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