Has the war on Thanksgiving begun?

Some retailers and consumers are balking at the ever-earlier shopping hours that now threaten to intrude on turkey time.

By Bruce Kennedy Nov 21, 2012 3:25PM

Image: Woman with shopping bags (Tanya Constantine/Getty Images)Retailers are boldly moving Black Friday up a few hours into Thanksgiving, in some cases opening their doors to a shopping frenzy before the last bite of pumpkin pie is enjoyed.

What happened to spending a day with the family? Is nothing sacred anymore?

Now, we're seeing the inevitable backlash against this rampant consumerism -- or at least a smart grab for headlines. J.C. Penney (JCP) is leading the charge against the new eat-then-shop turkey day, saying it's going to "honor" tradition by closing stores on Thanksgiving and opening for Black Friday.

The company is even opening its stores two hours later this year, at 6 a.m. from the 4 a.m. last year. And so the Black Friday pushback begins in earnest -- and retailers need to pick sides.

Are we seeing a war on Thanksgiving emerge here?

Sears (SHLD) and Wal-Mart (WMT) have moved shopping hours into Thanksgiving Day itself, turning the day into what some are calling "Gray Thursday." Other stores, such as Macy's (M) and Target (TGT), are opening some of their stores at midnight, right after Thanksgiving.

But some consumers and employees are balking. Some Wal-Mart employees are so outraged that they are threatening to strike. And at least 300,000 people have signed a petition on the Change.org site calling on Target to "give Thanksgiving back to families" by not opening until Friday.

And a statement by one Wal-Mart employee in Wisconsin, Mary Pat Tifft -- a founding member of the labor right group OurWalmart -- has been getting a lot of notice on the internet.

"My son is coming home from Afghanistan for the holiday," she writes, "and I would be devastated if I had been scheduled to work. I see the disappointment in the eyes of my co-workers, especially those with young kids, that aren’t going to be able to share the holiday with their families."

Iowa-based retailer Von Maur is staying closed on Thanksgiving. "We don't participate in any of the midnight sales and extreme hours," Amy Davis, the company's advertising manager, told the Atlanta Journal Constitution. "It comes back to a company mindset of being mindful not just of what our customers want, but really taking into consideration our employees."

While 147 million consumers are expected to take part in Black Friday sales, some are wondering if Gray Thursday is necessary. Texas resident Janet David took advantage of the midnight openings last Thanksgiving, but told her local TV news outlet she has mixed feelings about it this year, "because I think you ought to be able to enjoy your holiday and not worry about shopping."

While Penney could certainly use the extra sales time on Thursday -- its sales and profits have been hit hard this year as management overhauls operations -- the company may see more benefit from the goodwill created by its stance against Gray Thursday.


"I know that some retailers are opening on Thanksgiving this year," CEO Ron Johnson said in an email to customers this week, according to The Dallas Morning News. "But spending Thanksgiving with family is one of America's greatest traditions. Since JCP was founded on the Golden Rule, I'm proud to honor this tradition by keeping our stores closed on this special day."

Of course, Johnson added, "we'll be honoring another great American tradition -- Black Friday -- with our one big sale of the year."

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Nov 21, 2012 4:50PM

Good for JCP!!  And as for Thanksgiving, stores (like sears, Best buy, Kohls, etc), should be ashamed of themselves for encroaching on a holiday tradition of a family spending Thanksgiving DAY and NIGHT together AT HOME, NOT in a cold store that only cares about padding their greed and bottom lines...


And all of you people that go tomorrow night and shop after dinner, you have lost your values as well.  You too, should be ashamed.


Just saying...



A dis-satisfied customer and voter...


Nov 21, 2012 5:01PM
Thank you JCP I will make a purchase on Friday!
Nov 21, 2012 5:18PM

Agreed. Well done JCP.  I saw your flyer and liked a few of the items.  I will definitely drop by your store if only to support a company that does right for their employees & their customers.

Yay!!! JCP I hope other department stores follow in your quest to keep the holiday traditions and family at the top of your priorities...I would definitely shop at the department stores that have this same philosophy :)))
Nov 21, 2012 3:54PM
Boycott Black Friday ! Consumers only get cheap junk" MADE IN CHINA" with no quality or true worth !
Nov 21, 2012 5:40PM
What do you know - an article on-line that tells the truth about retailing practices across the board instead of just bashing WalMart.  And people, the ultimate power of whether stores are open at any point on Thanksgiving Day (or at midnight to get a jump on Black Friday) rests with you.  If people don't shop during these extra hours, believe me, the stores will notice.  They're paying for staff and utilities when they're open, and if no one shows up to shop, those wages and utility bills are pure losses.  You can bet if that happens, next year the hours will be cut back.
Nov 21, 2012 5:17PM
You can't compare police and firefighters working on Thanksgiving to those in retail. Retail workers are hardly essential personnel and trouble never takes a holiday. Don't shop!! Whatever it is will be on sale later.
Nov 21, 2012 7:16PM
Nov 21, 2012 5:49PM
Blame the shoppers. The stores would not open if no shoppers showed up. They will be lined up on the sidewalks eating doughnuts and drinking red bull. Lots of pride & ambition there. Real winners.
Nov 21, 2012 6:21PM
Hobby Lobby is one of the few retailers that really doesn't do much for Black Friday.  The stores are closed Thanksgiving and only open an hour earlier and close one hour later on Friday and Saturday following Thanksgiving.  The store is always closed on Sunday and only has the two days of extended hours.
Nov 21, 2012 5:36PM
You can not compare people working in retail to police or firemen. The stores like Walmart and Target should be boycoted on Thanksgiving day if they open. Can you spell GREED?????
Nov 21, 2012 5:48PM
Black Friday?? Here's what it is--a Friday that  idiots camp out for for days in advance for to wait for the "sales"  to start; then they find out there's only enough stock to cover 15-20% of the demand. Then they go home and buy the product off of Ebay or the like for 10X the amount since their little spolied brat children just have to have the latest and greatest immediately. The retailers have destroyed Christmas and are trying to destroy Christianity itself, now they're after Thanksgiving, the only real true family holiday left. We need to get back to family values. Anybody remember when ALL stores were closed on the Holidays, Sundays, etc.? You couldn't even buy a pack of gum on Christmas, New Years, whatever. Now, no-one cares and the almighty buck rules the roost. WHAT ASHAME!!! RIP USA--I'm sorry to say you'll never recover from the onslaught of Liberalism.
Nov 21, 2012 6:29PM
in a couple of years thanksgiving will just be another shopping day,
Nov 21, 2012 4:19PM
Yeah --- Cheap junk made in China --- LIKE I-PHONES !
Nov 21, 2012 5:50PM
Brilliant!!  Has nothing to do with core beliefs or "honoring" tradition albeit twisted as such.  JCP is in a tough spot and they KNOW they cannot win against the Kohl's, Best Buy's, Target's and Macy's if they open at the same time.  By twisting this into a "family purpose" they will have their stores full at 6AM after everyone is finished with the other stores.  In the end, they sell more than they would have, look like saints to some, AND save on payroll by being open a shorter timespan for the day.  Well done JCP stay creative and you will come thru fine.
Nov 21, 2012 4:00PM
First a little history. WalMart under Sam Walton was a made in America store. Not any more. Either way we will pay. If those folks get off government assistance we will pay more for products from Walmart. Don't forget, WE are the problem. If there was no business then the stores would not open. Everything is driven by us the consumer. And, there are 40 million folks that would be more than happy to work the holiday and probably for even less!
Walmart makes a lot of stuff affordable to a lot of folks. How do you think that happens. I go to a local grocery store instead of Walmart because I don't like waiting in ridiculously long lines. I pay a little more for a better service and I am on my way. Paying Walmart folks more will not shorten the line so I will continue to stay away.
Nov 21, 2012 5:47PM
yet to see a job application for a retail dept. store that doesn't ask "Are you willing to work nights, weekends, and holidays?". Nature of the Beast so to speak. 
Nov 21, 2012 11:24PM
I've worked Black Friday for 25 years as a retail Manager for a number of large chain stores.  I have always told myself  the day they intruded on Thanksgiving would be the day I walked away from retail.  Well two years ago I walked and haven't looked back.  Seriously folks stop being fooled into this gross feeding frenzy.  IF you could only see yourselves pathetically running through aisles, grabbing merchandise, breaking doors and windows, threatening each other, etc I think you would think twice about participating in this sad spectacle.  Calm the hell down.  The crap will be there on Friday at 6am.  Nothing is worth being subjected to the sub-human behavior displayed at 12 midnight Thanksgiving day, and now during Thanksgiving day.  I feel sadness for those who cant take one day to enjoy family and friends.  So hats off to JCP, whatever the reason, its more about the season. 
If these stupid stores have to work Thanksgiving to make it, I hope they all fail next year. It's only 1 day to close and its a holiday, gimme a break, stay home and relax.
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