Like it or not, shopping on Thanksgiving Day appears here to stay.
Macy's on Tuesday confirmed that it will open its doors at 6 p.m. that day, two hours earlier than it did last year. The department store is the first major retailer to announce its Black Friday opening hours this year.
But other stores are likely to follow suit.
"I expect it to be back this year," Matthew Shay, president of the National Retail Federation, told reporters on a recent conference call when asked whether retailers would open on Thanksgiving this year.
Shay noted that retailers are trying to respond to what their customers want, especially in such a competitive and highly promotional environment. He added that shopping is a tradition and social activity for many Americans.
Retailers for several years have been moving back the start of day-after-Thanksgiving shopping tradition into the twilight hours of Thanksgiving Day itself.
Over the past few days, word spread that Macy's would open at 6 p.m. after a letter from company executives to employees was leaked to the media.
In a statement, Macy's said that it saw a "significant, sustained customer interest" from its opening on Thanksgiving night last year. It added that employees have already volunteered to work a "large majority" of those shifts in the last few days.
"We also heard last year from many associates who appreciated the opportunity to work on Thanksgiving so they could have time off on Black Friday," Holly Thomas, a Macy's spokeswoman, wrote in an e-mail. "Additionally, associates who work an opening shift on Thanksgiving will be compensated with incentive pay."
Thanksgiving openings have also been met by petitions from angry employees and critics who think the holiday should be spent with family. Some retailers, such as Menards and Von Maur have stood against the ever-earlier openings and instead continued to open on Friday as usual.
In the weeks to come, other retailers will announce their opening hours.
Last year, Toys 'R' Us was one of the first retailers to open on Thanksgiving night. It opened at 5 p.m., followed by Wal-Mart and Best Buy at 6 p.m. and several others such as Macy's, Target and Kohl's at 8 p.m.
Richfield-based Best Buy has not yet announced its Thanksgiving plan for this year. But at its shareholders meeting in June, CEO Hubert Joly indicated that the retailer was pleased by the decision to open last Thanksgiving, noting it created shorter lines for customers.
"Before, people were waiting in line at 11 p.m. or midnight in the cold," he said.
In 2012, Best Buy learned firsthand about the peril of opening later than its competitors. It opened at midnight that year while other big retailers opened several hours earlier on Thanksgiving night.
"Clearly, trying to win the battle without playing is difficult," Joly said.
He added that he was grateful for the sacrifices of employees, many of whom volunteered to work those hours.
Kavita Kumar • 612-673-4113