Wal-Mart gets a no for early Friday sales

  • Article by: LAURIE BLAKE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 15, 2011 - 9:20 PM

Adhering to an agreement to protect neighbors from parking lot lights, Inver Grove Heights refuses Wal-Mart's request to stay open all night on Thanksgiving.

Inver Grove Heights has refused Wal-Mart's request to stay open for 24 hours on Thanksgiving, saying the retail giant needs to stick to the terms of its 2003 deal with the city.

When the store opened at 9165 Cahill Av., it agreed to limited hours -- from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. -- to satisfy residents on Cahill and Cheney Trail who objected to around-the-clock parking lot lights and traffic.

Wal-Mart has felt especially pinched by those constraints on Thanksgiving, when it wants to get a running start on the Friday opening that's considered the beginning of the holiday shopping season.

In 2009 and again this year, Wal-Mart asked the City Council for permission to open on Thanksgiving and remain open until 11 p.m. Friday.

Both times the city has said no, although it did allow Wal-Mart to open at 5 a.m. instead of 7 a.m. on the Friday after Thanksgiving.

Council Member Dennis Madden said he chaired the planning commission when the chain was seeking to locate in the city. He said reaching the compromise under which Wal-Mart was finally allowed to come in and operate on a limited schedule was a "long, arduous, terrible and miserable fight."

Even though it is just one day and Wal-Mart may be the only business in the city with restricted hours, "you make a deal, you keep the deal," said Madden. He said that in 2009, employees of the store thanked him for enforcing the limited hours so they could celebrate Thanksgiving.

Store manager Tim Peterson argued in a letter to the city that he is concerned that customers will have to wait outside in the dark and cold for the store to open Friday morning.

"I am also concerned for the safety of the associates as well as the customers as they enter the store, as there is typically a rush to obtain the merchandise," Peterson said.

"The ideal plan would be to allow us to remain open Thanksgiving evening through Friday until 11 p.m. Friday evening."

Peterson predicted that staying open all night would boost sales by 15 percent.

Mayor George Tourville said that if Target moves to town, as planned, he would at that point consider making Wal-Mart's Thanksgiving hours the same as the new competitor's.

Laurie Blake • 952-746-3287

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