Some skeptics wondered if the Mall of America would really stay closed on Thanksgiving after giving individual stores the option to stay open.
Turns out, the Bloomington megamall has now adjusted that loophole and will be bucking the national trend of Black Friday sales that start on the Thanksgiving holiday.
Only three stores — Macy's, Sears and the Crayola Experience, which more or less have their own exterior entrances — will open for business that day.
The nation's biggest mall announced last month it would be shutting down its operations — including the movie theaters, Sea Life Aquarium and Nickelodeon Universe. Officials have notified the 520 tenants that because of the positive response from stores, the rest of the mall will be completely shut down on the holiday.
The mall's doors will be locked about noon on Thanksgiving — after the annual Walk to End Hunger concludes that morning — and will not be unlatched until 5 a.m. on the actual Black Friday.
"The reaction from our retailers has been overwhelmingly positive and wholeheartedly supported," said mall spokesman Dan Jasper of the announcement last month that it was closing.
"We are so pleased that our tenants have embraced this opportunity to give their employees the day to enjoy Thanksgiving with their families and friends."
Although many of those same stores will be open at other malls around the Twin Cities on the holiday, he said that the mall's strong encouragement to close helped seal the deal for many.
"Many of our tenants who might have chosen to be open knew that if there's only a handful of other retailers open, their odds of getting good traffic" were not great, he said.
Nevertheless, mall officials aren't worried about missing out on sales to other shopping centers, having said they expect to do about the same number of sales during the Black Friday shopping weekend, but in three days instead of four.
The creep of Black Friday, one of the biggest shopping events of the year, into Thanksgiving Day has led to outcries from those who bristle at the idea of making employees work on the holiday.
But many retailers, for whom Black Friday is an all-out battle to rake in precious holiday dollars, have countered that some customers prefer the after-dinner shopping hours instead of having to go out to stores in the middle of the night.
Many also have been reluctant to sit out the day and miss out on possible sales if competitors will be open.
Still, many retail analysts have noted that the Thanksgiving Day openings do not typically lead to more sales over the Black Friday weekend. The same amount of sales are just spread out over more days.
A handful of other companies such as Office Depot, hhgregg and mall operator CBL & Associates also have decided to close their outposts on Thanksgiving after being open in recent years.
Stores at CBL malls with their own external entrances have the option to open. So while Burnsville Center, a CBL property, will be closed on the holiday, a number of retailers such as Gordman's, Kirkland's, Sears, Macy's, J.C. Penney and the movie theater will be open that day.
So will most other retailers around the country. The two biggest mall operators in the U.S. — General Growth Properties and Simon Property Group — will keep their doors open. Besides typical mall anchors, stores such as Wal-Mart, Target and Best Buy will be doing the same.
Around the Twin Cities, most malls will be open, though they are leaving it up to stores to decide if they want to stay open or closed.
At Eden Prairie Center, about 26 stores — roughly the same number as last year — will open at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving. These include Eddie Bauer, Gap, Old Navy, Victoria's Secret and Bath & Body Works. Most of those stores will close at midnight while the mall's anchors — J.C. Penney, Kohl's and Target — will stay open all night. The mall will then open one hour later than last year — at 6 a.m. instead of 5 a.m. — on Black Friday.
At Rosedale Center, about 80 stores including Abercrombie & Fitch, Build-A-Bear Workshop, Forever 21, Express and Foot Locker are opening at 6 p.m., when the mall opens on Thanksgiving. That is on par with the number that participated last year.
"Shopping has become a popular activity for many families after the Thanksgiving meal," the mall said in a statement. "In setting our hours, we consider several factors including department store hours, retailer promotions, market trends and shopper needs."
Ridgedale Center also will be open from 6 p.m. to midnight on Thanksgiving, while Southdale Center will stay open until 1 a.m.
Twin Cities Premium Outlets will be open on Thanksgiving and stay open all night. The Galleria in Edina has always been closed on the holiday.
For the Mall of America, where about 15,000 people work, the decision to close also reflected the difficulty of finding enough employees who were willing to work on the holiday and through the night.
So when the mall's staff began spreading the word to stores that the mall would close this year, many were greeted with tears and hugs, Jasper said. The mall also has received thank-you e-mails, handwritten letters and cards from people around the country.
The mall will have a "limited number" of employees on hand that day to cover security and maintenance, as it does every day of the year.
To drum up excitement for its true Black Friday, the mall is hosting an "door opening ceremony" at 5 a.m. at its north entrance with Santa and his elves, refreshments and live music.
The first shoppers through the doors will receive scratch-off cards with a mystery gift that could be a free hotel stay, suites for concerts at Target Center, televisions, Burberry scarves, iPads, Kate Spade handbags or gift cards.
The mall will hand out 10,000 gifts valued at more than $200,000 over the weekend.