Target Gives Workers Thanksgiving Day Back: Will Other Retailers Follow Up?

While retail workers have been on the literal and figurative front since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, this week’s unofficial kickoff of the holiday shopping season offers a very rare silver lining for the in-store workforce: Chances are thanks to free retail. Can be retrieved permanently as leave.

Most major retailers have announced plans to close this Thanksgiving Day, as they did last year, when capacity restrictions, social distancing rules and large numbers of people are reluctant to stay in enclosed areas with customers. Aadhaar had made in-store purchases impossible. , However, Target took it a step further: IT announced on Monday That it will make it permanent to close its stores on Thanksgiving Day.

The excesses of Black Friday and the toll it has on the people behind registers and stocking shelves have drawn much criticism.

The Associated Press reported that Target CEO Brian Cornell explained the decision in a note to employees. “What started as a temporary measure inspired by the pandemic is now our new standard – one that recognizes our ability to deliver our guests’ holiday wishes within store hours and well,” he said. . Target said that while stores will remain closed, some distribution and call center workers will be on duty over Thanksgiving.

Black Friday creep reached its peak in 2019, when a number of big chains opened for “Black Friday Eve”—in other words, Thanksgiving Day, when most Americans traditionally expect to be home with their families. Black Friday’s excesses and the toll it took on the people behind registers and stocking shelves drew much criticism from pundits and on social media, but they continued to accelerate.

Ultimately, it took nothing less than a pandemic, followed by a historic labor market distortion and labor shortage, to stop the trend in its tracks.

Arun Sundaram, a senior equity research analyst at CFRA Research, said it was a good idea to target a closing for Thanksgiving and predicted that other big-box chains would eventually do the same. “I think this is the right move, especially in this tight labor market, where employees have more leverage than employers,” he said.

To the extent that there once was one, today there is less need for general merchandise stores to be open at all times: under pressure from Amazon, brick-and-mortar retail brands were investing in their e-commerce capabilities, the pace of which was stymied by Covid-19. was supercharged. During months of lockdown, companies poured money into web and app shopping tools, distribution networks and fulfillment strategies.

The reason general merchandise stores are open all the time is even less so today.

The result is that it is easier than ever for people to shop from their sofas, Sundaram said. Even before the pandemic, there were signs that there were diminishing returns for retailers in the earlier and earlier times on Thanksgiving, with some market observers suggesting that much of Thursday night’s shopping activity was simply cannibalizing Black Friday sales.

“There’s no point in being open on Thanksgiving now,” Sundaram pointed to the expansion of digital shopping options as well as the extended timeline for Black Friday sales and discounts. “The deals are now spread throughout the holiday season.”

Labor advocates expressed relief, with some skeptical about the companies’ long-term commitment to remain closed on Thanksgiving Day.

“I would take any announcement about the long term with a grain of skepticism,” said Ruth Milkman, a professor of sociology at the City University of New York and chair of the CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies. Makes sense from business as well as human point of view.

“This year, with labor shortages and a desire to retain workers already on the books, this is a rational move by retailers,” she said.

Milkman suggested the decision would be a welcome one for workers and their families, especially because last year many gatherings, even between relatives, were shortened or moderated by video chat. “It may also reflect some recognition that last year so many families didn’t have a Thanksgiving gathering. And so now that they may do so again, shopping may not be a popular priority over the holidays.” he said.

As well as familiar with the changed balance of power between employers and employees, retailers are also unwilling to trigger any kind of consumer backlash that could hurt sales: National Retail Federation on holiday spending is predicted to be a record-shattering year.

“Consumers are in a very favorable position in the last few months of the year,” said Matthew Shay, the federation’s president and CEO. Statement, On the high end, the trade group said, US buyers could spend up to $859 billion.

But along with the potential for strong sales, retailers also face higher costs for goods, shipping, and labor. While many have been able to reduce the hit to their lows by raising prices, that doesn’t eliminate the expectation that labor and staffing challenges will remain for the foreseeable future. A public relations crisis that could derail the momentum could lead to disappointing sales, not to mention worker defections.

A record 4.4 million people left their jobs in September, according to the Labor Department, despite wage increases of about 5 percent on an annual basis. Scott Blumsack, senior vice president of data and research at Corporate for Monster.com, said, “Over the past three months, the increase in the number of people leaving jobs has impacted recruitment and retention across all sectors, but shook retail and hospitality. Is.” parent, Monster Worldwide, said by email.

“Aiming to offer leave permanently will demonstrate to employees and prospects that they care about work-life balance, which is important in today’s market,” Blumsack said. “Time will tell if others follow suit.”

Sundaram said the stakes are high for Target and its rivals to find a balance between people and profits this holiday season.

“This is something that activists have been asking for for some time,” Sundaram said of the Thanksgiving closing announcement. “I think it’s a good move in terms of keeping employees happy and shareholders happy.”