NEW YORK (AP) — Target will no longer open its stores on Thanksgiving Day, making permanent a shift to the unofficial start of the holiday season that was suspended during the pandemic.

Retailers had to reduce the crowds at stores last year. They made what used to be a weekend shopping frenzy into an extended event. Big holiday discounts began as early October.

This forced shift seems to be a good thing.

U.S. holiday sales last November and December rose 8.2% in 2020 from the previous year, according to The National Retail Federation, the nation’s largest retail trade group. This trade group expects that 2021 will break this record and grow between 8.5%-10.5%.

Target reported that Americans are more open to receiving the same offers in a wider timeframe and have been relieved of many holiday stresses.

“What started as a temporary measure driven by the pandemic is now our new standard — one that recognizes our ability to deliver on our guests’ holiday wishes both within and well beyond store hours,” Target CEO Brian Cornell wrote in a note to employees. “You don’t have to wonder whether this is the last Thanksgiving you’ll spend with family and friends for a while, because Thanksgiving store hours are one thing we won’t ‘get back to’ when the pandemic finally subsides.”

Target has been the only major retailer to move in this way during the pandemic. Other retailers could follow its lead, Ken Perkins, President of Retail Metrics, an independent retail research firm. He believes retailers are also looking at whether it’s worth spending money on labor and other costs to open on Thanksgiving when shoppers are turning more to online shopping and away from physical stores.

“With all these online shopping opportunities, is it really necessary to open on Thanksgiving?” Perkins said.

Macy’s, which will not open its stores on Thanksgiving for the second year in a row, said that its curbside pickup service will be available at select locations. It also noted that it hasn’t announced future plans but “we lean into what our customers as well as colleagues tell us is important to them on these decisions.”

Kohl’s and Walmart will also be closed on Thursday, but Walmart said it hasn’t made a decision yet on the future of Thanksgiving Day store shopping; Kohl’s declined to comment.

Target stated that call center and distribution staff will be available on Thanksgiving and will receive holiday pay.

Twenty years ago, the holiday season began to extend into Thanksgiving Day when major retailers started selling Black Friday sales until the early hours of the morning. Target, along with other large stores, opened their doors to shoppers on Black Friday ten years later. This created a new tradition in shopping.

Many of them did it to be competitive with AmazonThese are just some of the growing online threats. Julie Ramhold from, a consumer analyst, said that 25 chain stores were the most popular in their physical locations on Thanksgiving 2005.

However, the Black Friday sale was not affected by this shift. Large crowds turned out for Thanksgiving doorbusters. Black Friday sales were extended to the whole holiday week, and later on into November.

Critics slammed big retailers, claiming that thousands were made to work instead of spending time with their families during Thanksgiving Day. The number of malls and stores, including Mall of America in Minnesota and other retail chains, began to decrease for Thanksgiving Day over the years. The number of major stores that are open on the Thanksgiving holiday has been reduced to less than 20 chains. This excludes pharmacies and other grocers which remain open only for a short time.

Costco and Nordstrom were among those that closed their doors on the holiday to show respect.

The Thanksgiving holiday has historically been not a huge sales day. It rarely makes the Top 10 due to the fact that stores open at 5 p.m.

However, it’s been a big online shopping day. According to Adobe Digital Economy Index, Cyber Monday and Black Friday have been the most popular online shopping days for the last two years.


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