Amy Martinez/Seattle Times—Another Thanksgiving tradition is elbowing its way in to join the turkey carving, post-meal nap and football-game watch party: the hunt for a “door-buster” deal.
The Friday after Thanksgiving long has marked the official start of the holiday shopping season. But increasingly, the kickoff is happening on Thanksgiving evening — just as most people are finishing their turkey feast.
Best Buy, Kohl’s, Macy’s, J.C. Penney, Sports Authority and Staples will open on Thanksgiving for the first time this year. Repeating fromlast year are Kmart, Old Navy, Sears, Target, Toys R Us and Walmart.
Those major national chains are trying to get a jump on the competition and grab hold of shoppers before they feel tapped out. But some of the best-known Seattle retailers aren’t buying into the rush.
The Thanksgiving shopping trend is criticized by those who say it injects too much consumerism into a holiday meant for family and deprives workers of a day off.
“It was fun to get up and go shopping at 5 a.m. on Friday, but to ruin my Thanksgiving — I don’t think so,” said Jerenda Huang, a Redmond mother of four who already is almost done with her holiday shopping. “Thanksgiving should be a peaceful day, not a time to fight crowds and clamor for deals.”
A local Sports Authority worker said he’ll miss out on Thanksgiving dinner with his family because he has to report for duty at 5 p.m. Thursday for the store’s 6 p.m. opening. He said the holiday shift comes with no extra pay or perks.
“My family doesn’t plan to eat dinner until 3 or 4 in the afternoon, so I won’t be spending Thanksgiving with them, basically,” said the twenty-something worker, who spoke on condition that his name not be used, citing a fear of getting fired. “The whole thing seems over the top. I don’t see why you can’t just open at 6 a.m. on Black Friday and close at 10 p.m.”
Retailers are anxious to get the most out of a holiday shopping season that is the shortest in 11 years. Thanksgiving falls later than usual this year, leaving only 26 days between Thursday and Christmas, six fewer than last year.
The National Retail Federation recently polled consumers on their Turkey Day plans, and as many as 39 percent of those aged 25 to 34 said they’ll shop on Thursday. In all, 33 million consumers expect to shop on Thanksgiving, compared with 97 million on Friday.
“What started as a test run for large retailers has actually turned into a legitimate part of the holiday shopping weekend,” said federation spokeswoman Kathy Grannis. “Our research shows there is an audience for it.”
The retail trade group predicts a 3.9 percent increase in holiday sales, compared with last year’s 3.5 percent growth.
Political and economic uncertainty has caused shoppers to hold back on their spending, and capturing their dollars early is the name of the game, Grannis said.
“For retailers, knowing that people are on tight budgets, this is a great way to get in front of their customers and offer them something attractive,” she said. “It will be a very highly promotional environment on Thanksgiving.”
Target employee Aaron Harvey said he’ll work from 8 p.m. Thursday to 4 a.m. Friday at the Factoria store in Bellevue.
“I don’t mind,” said Harvey, 33. “I’ll get paid time and a half, and I love what I do. Plus, I’m a single guy, and I don’t have family around.”
But not every major chain is jumping on the Thanksgiving shopping bandwagon. Among the large holdouts are Seattle-based Nordstrom and Issaquah-based Costco Wholesale.
Paul Latham, vice president of marketing at Costco, said the decision to close on Thanksgiving was “not very complicated.”
“We appreciate how hard our employees work, especially during the holiday season,” Latham said. “Because Thanksgiving is a traditional holiday, we simply feel that our employees deserve the opportunity to share it with their family and friends.”
At Nordstrom, fourth-quarter sales make up about 30 percent of a year’s business.
Yet the company can refrain from opening on Thanksgiving because its customers aren’t looking for deep discounts, said retail consultant Jeff Green.
“Macy’s is a promotional department store where people shop for sales. And Nordstrom is not shopped that way,” Green said. “It’s shopped for quality and service, and if you want that, you’ll wait for it.”
Nordstrom posted a message on its Facebook page Wednesday saying its stores will close on Thanksgiving and reopen Friday to “ring in the new season.” The Facebook post garnered more than 21,000 “likes” in less than 24 hours.
Debbie Preston of Forks, Clallam County, said she refuses to shop on Thanksgiving and encourages her friends and family not to shop, either.
“It seems like all of our holidays have become a day to shop,” said Preston, a married mom of two young children. “It should be a time when people talk face to face.”
Retail experts say it’s unclear if Thanksgiving Day openings generate enough new business to offset the costs.
Bill Martin, founder and executive vice president of research firm ShopperTrak, estimates that sales on Thanksgiving will be a “little more” than last year’s $800 million. But that pales in comparison to the $2.8 billion a typical Thursday in November generates, or the nearly $11 billion done on Black Friday, he said.
Seattle-based cookware chain Sur La Table said it will close on Thanksgiving so that its employees and customers can “stuff themselves silly and fall into a tryptophan snooze.”
Kent-based REI also hopes customers will appreciate its decision to stick to tradition and close on Thanksgiving.
“We found our customers just aren’t expecting us to be open,” said REI spokeswoman Libby Catalinich. “Folks who shop at REI tend to be outdoors or outside hiking, working off their holiday dinner.”