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Joel Koyama, Star Tribune

Family, football trump commerce at Menards, Fleet Farm

  • Article by: Jackie Crosby
  • Star Tribune
  • November 27, 2013 - 9:36 PM

 

A smattering of big-box retailers around the nation are taking a stand against shopping on Thanksgiving, even as rivals’ openings move earlier into the holiday.

Menards used valuable advertising space on its circular for a “Dear Guest” note to explain why its doors won’t open until 6 a.m. the day after Thanksgiving.

“As a family-owned company,” the Eau Claire, Wis.-based retailer said, “Menards believes that Thanksgiving is a time for togetherness, which should be celebrated with all those we hold dear.”

Mills Fleet Farm, based in Brainerd, Minn., is running television ads proclaiming that it will be closed on Thanksgiving because it should be a day about “family, food and football.”

Jim von Maur, the fourth generation to run the Iowa-based Von Maur Department Store, said its “family-oriented focus” of staying closed Thanksgiving and Christmas “is never going to change.”

“Some things are sacred,” Von Maur said, “including spending time with family and loved ones on Thanksgiving and other holidays.”

Menards and other retailers may feel more pressure than usual to explain themselves, as some of the nation’s biggest retailers are opening up on Thanksgiving, including Target, Wal-Mart and Best Buy, which last year decided not to open until midnight.

But Laura Gurski, a partner at the consulting firm A.T. Kearney, said it’s a deliberate strategy.

“They’re playing on family values and on the softness of people — do you really want your daughter or husband working on Thanksgiving?” she said. “The bottom line is they’re not open because they did the math and it doesn’t make sense. … They can’t possibly sell enough to cover the cost.”

Nordstrom, Home Depot, Costco, Marshalls and TJX, which operates the T.J. Maxx and Marshalls brands, are among the other retailers to buck the growing trend to try to nab Turkey Day sales.

“They will take a little bit of risk of losing some market share by not being open that day,” Gurski said. “But chances are those that are remaining closed have already done the math to figure out it’s worth losing.”

It’s expensive for retailers to open on a holiday. They must bring on extra staff to cover extended hours throughout the weekend, and some might be paying overtime.

“If you want to open earlier or stay open later, you have higher labor costs and higher utilities costs,” said Akshay Rao, a marketing professor at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management. “The trick for retailers is to balance costs with the benefit — which is the profit margin of staying open.”

Out of more than 500 stores at the Mall of America, just 92 will be open on Thanksgiving. A large wave will open at midnight and a second group at 6 a.m. on Friday. But the pressure to open early can be strong, mall officials said.

“Certain stores are opening earlier and others feel the need to match that to maintain sales,” said MOA spokesman Dan Jasper. “This year’s pattern will be interesting. It’s more staggered and more paced through the day, versus tens of thousands on Black Friday.”

The yearning for a commerce-free Thanksgiving may be long gone, but the day may not prove to be such a boon to retailers.

Last year, 35 million Americans shopped on Thanksgiving, compared with 89 million on Black Friday, according to the National Retail Federation. Research firm ShopperTrak has predicted that Thanksgiving Day may not crack the top 50 shopping days of the year.

Niche and specialty retailers probably don’t feel the pressure, analysts say. Nordstrom and its appeal to more of a luxury market can give up Thanksgiving Day sales. For homebuilding stores, such as Menards and Home Depot, the November-December shopping isn’t as crucial as for some retailers.

Steve Gossen, general manager of the Menards in Golden Valley, said employees have known for more than a month that the store would close at 10 p.m. on Wednesday and not reopen until Friday morning. Menards has 284 stores in 14 states, including 40 in Minnesota.

“Menards has taken the stance that we’ve got to look beyond the bottom line,” said Gossen. “We hear a lot of stories about friends or spouses who work at other places and are required to work unbelievable hours. People are pretty excited Menards is sticking to its policy.”

 

Jackie Crosby • 612-673-7335

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