The Mall of America may have started something with the announcement that it would close on Thanksgiving Day. Let’s hope so.
The mall’s announcement that it will close its theaters, Nickelodeon Universe and as many of its other attractions as possible caused a stir in the retail world and triggered a largely positive outpouring on social media from consumers and workers alike. Although nothing will prevent megamall tenants from opening, mall officials predict that most will close.
Officials said they’ve been talking about the move for months, examining the pros and cons. In the end, the decision was made to “give this day back to our employees so they can celebrate with their families,” said Jill Renslow, senior vice president of marketing and business development.
That is a welcome development for a number of reasons. It may be, as some have posited, that it simply made financial sense not to open the world’s largest mall, with 15,000 employees and more than 500 stores, for a partial day that many Americans still choose to spend in places other than shopping centers. Perhaps retail analysts are correct when they say Thanksgiving Day hours just spread sales across a longer period without increasing sales overall.
But plenty of retailers are expected to continue treating the holiday as just another consumer spending opportunity. The Mall of America, after listening to workers for the last few years, as opening times crept earlier and earlier — first midnight, then 8 p.m., then 6 p.m. — opted to go a different route. Perhaps the move will restart a national conversation about the values people attach to holidays.
Of course, there are those who expect — and are needed — to work on Thanksgiving Day, including doctors, nurses, police officers and scores of others. Retail workers don’t fall into that category. Often part-time, they are among the lowest-paid workers and have the fewest benefits. Working on Thanksgiving Day goes well beyond the evening hours spent ringing up purchases. Stores that close to customers at midnight actually stay open hours beyond that, so an army of worker bees can restock shelves, vacuum floors and get ready to reopen in a few hours.
What to do after the big dinner? That’s easy. Take a walk outside, enjoy fall’s soft palette of browns, reds and yellows. Experience the peace of mostly empty streets. Visit friends. Have another piece of pie. Give thanks.