Looks like Thanksgiving Day shopping has peaked.
On Monday, Target and Toys R Us announced plans for Black Friday weekend. Surprising no one whatsoever, both will indeed be launching “Black Friday” sales the day before, with stores opening on Thanksgiving Day, just like they did last year. Then Best Buy followed suit by saying it too would host store hours on Thanksgiving, same as last year.
Yet while the “Black Thursday” trend is very much alive, the fact that most stores—including Target, Toys R Us, and Best Buy—are keeping the same Thanksgiving hours as last year rather than expanding them is noteworthy, perhaps indicating that retailers have reached the point of diminishing returns with Turkey Day store hours.
In the past, big box retailers have pushed the envelope by opening stores earlier and earlier each time Thanksgiving rolled around. As NJ.com noted, New Jersey-based Toys R Us waited until midnight on Thanksgiving night to open in 2009, but opened at 10 p.m. on Thanksgiving the following year. By Thanksgiving 2013, Macy’s was opening at 8 p.m. on the holiday. This year, Macy’s is opening at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day, the same as last year. Likewise, Toys R Us, Best Buy, and Target are sticking with the same Thanksgiving store hours for the second year in a row (5 p.m., 5 p.m., and 6 p.m., respectively).
Meanwhile, some retailers are shying away from opening on the holiday: Staples will stay closed on Thanksgiving this year, and H&M announced on Monday that it too won’t bother opening on the holiday. Both stores were open for shopping on Thanksgiving Day 2014. And outdoor specialty chain REI surprised the retail world with the decision to remain closed on Thanksgiving and Black Friday.
One reason that stores may be reluctant to keep opening earlier and earlier on Thanksgiving is that they don’t want to aggravate workers and family-minded consumers more than they already have. On Facebook, Target was inundated with angry comments on Monday after it posted Thanksgiving Day store hours. “VERY disappointed in Target and their lack of respect for family!!” was a typical response.
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The comments shouldn’t come as a surprise. Families constitute Target’s core shoppers, and customers have mounted boycotts and launched “Save Thanksgiving” campaigns in the past to pressure the retailer to keep the day sacred and stay closed on the holiday.
So perhaps Target—and Toys R Us and Macy’s and the rest—have halted the expansion of Thanksgiving Day store hours because of pressures exerted by the masses crying “Family Time!” After all, according to a recent survey by RichRelevance, nearly two out of three consumers say they hate or dislike stores being open on Thanksgiving.
Another explanation is that it’s simply dawning on stores that they’ve reached the point of diminishing returns in terms of Thanksgiving hours. No one ever really had to go shopping on Thanksgiving, and now that quasi-Black Friday sales begin appearing in early November if not sooner, it seems especially unnecessary for stores to be open at, say, noon or 2 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day. The season is bloated and deals are basically available every day for two months. This turn of events obviously makes Black Friday less meaningful for retailers, and it would seem to make any further store hour expansion into Thanksgiving silly and maybe even counterproductive for boosting sales for the season as a whole. Unless the sales being rung up are massive, why do something that agitates loyal shoppers and employees alike?
The “Save Thanksgiving” advocates probably won’t be happy until all retailers give up on Thanksgiving store hours entirely, but they can at least claim a minor victory by way of the fact that the encroachment of consumerism into Thanksgiving family time has gone flat. Somehow, though, it doesn’t seem like much of a success since all that’s happened is that retailers have decided it’s in their own best interest to stop ruining the holiday further.