NEW YORK (AP) — Target will no longer open its stores on Thanksgiving Day, making permanent a shift to the unofficial start of the holiday season that was suspended during the pandemic.
Retailers last year were forced to turn what had become a weekend shopping blitz into an extended event with holiday sales beginning as early as October to limit the number of people in stores during the pandemic.
That forced shift during the holidays, however, turned out to be a good move.
U.S. holiday sales in November and December rose 8.2% in 2020 from the previous year, according to The National Retail Federation, the nation's largest retail trade group. The trade group predicts that this year could shatter last year's record, growing between 8.5% and 10.5%.
"What started as a temporary measure driven by the pandemic is now our new standard — one that recognizes our ability to deliver on our guests' holiday wishes both within and well beyond store hours," Target CEO Brian Cornell wrote in a note to employees.
The new standard at Target, on top very healthy sales last year, could push other retailers to follow in its path.
Target distribution and call centers will have some staff on Thanksgiving Day, Target said Monday, but stores will remain closed.
Target began opening its stores on Thanksgiving a decade ago, joining other retailers in kicking off Black Friday sales a day early and creating a holiday rush after the turkey feast. Many did so to compete with Amazon.com and other rising online threats.
But the shift seemed to merely eat up sales on Black Friday. And big retailers also suffered some blowback, accused of forcing thousands of people to work on a family holiday.
Some stores and malls like the Mall of America in Minnesota, ended the practice and remained closed on Thanksgiving. Some, like Costco and Nordstrom, never opened their doors during the holiday, saying they wanted to respect the holiday.
Thanksgiving had historically not been a big sales day overall, not one of the top 10, because stores usually opened their doors around 5 p.m. However, it's been a big online sales day. Last year, the holiday trailed only Cyber Monday and Black Friday in online sales, according to the Adobe Digital Economy Index.