A decade-long crowd-pulling tradition may have come to an end in 2020 as Walmart announced on Tuesday, July 21, that it would close all walk-in stores nationwide on Thanksgiving Day . Since 2012, Walmart and some other major retailers have been opening on Thanksgiving to offer huge sales and Black Friday deals to some of the largest streams of customers these companies receive in a year. Countless items are slashed and juicy offers are put up across the country, starting on Thanksgiving Thursday in November (which fell on the 26th this year) until Friday, the next day.
This year, however, Walmart and its subsidiary Sam’s Club stores are shutting their doors on Thanksgiving. This is to allow their workers to spend time with their families during the holiday and to avoid large crowds gathering during a pandemic.
“We know this has been a trying year, and our associates have stepped up. We hope they will enjoy a special Thanksgiving Day at home with their loved ones,” said John Furner, CEO, and president of Walmart US, in a statement . “We are certainly thankful to our people for all of their efforts.”
A positive change
Walmart has faced major criticism in the past for not giving its workers Thanksgiving Day off to celebrate with their families. The day usually starts with regular hours as the store cordons off sections dedicated to the massive sales. Staggering crowds will form lines out the door, waiting for the kickoff time, often at 6 pm. The sales would often spill into Friday as staff and salespersons endure extensive shifts to serve the nearly endless streams of customers.
This year, however, things will be different. CEO Furner explains that the idea was pitched to the Walmart Board in a letter from a store supervisor in Texas.
“We know holiday shopping will be different this year, and we will be managing sales events differently,” Furner wrote. “Kevin Carlyle is the People Lead at Store #475 in Round Rock, Texas. He recently wrote us and suggested that we close for Thanksgiving during this unusual year, so that our associates could spend the day with their families.”
E-commerce gearing up to thrive as other retailers join the wagon
Walmart isn’t the only store breaking the Black Friday tradition in honor of its staff and for the safety of its customers. Ulta, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Kohl’s, Target, and Best Buy Co will also be shutting down this Thanksgiving .
Market analysts estimate a boom in e-commerce as millions of consumers would ultimately rely on online shopping to snatch great deals during the holiday season. Although major stores would be shut down for a day, Walmart says it would keep fulfillment centers open for customers to redeem their online orders. No information on such plans has been released by Target and Best Buy, although these companies plan to offer great deals all through the holidays, starting earlier than usual.
“This season, you can count on getting extra-big savings without the extra-long lines, with plenty of opportunities to score the best deals on the hottest items both before and after November 26,” Target wrote in a statement.
According to a survey of 6,812 shoppers by Fluent Projects, a 73% increase in customers shopping online should be expected this Thanksgiving .
The retailers were wise to reassure their customers that all the great deals in physical stores would be available for online shopping. The companies have been widely praised and commended for making the novel move, considering the dangerously long lines of people that would have gathered for Black Friday deals despite the pandemic.
“The last thing responsible retailers want are crowds gathering in their stores for Black Friday sales amidst the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Mousumi Behari, digital strategy practice lead at Avionos. “Now is the time to utilize a planned schedule for online promotions, pushing convenient fulfillment options such as buy online, pick up in-store. This will help take the focus away from one massive sales day while spreading out spending for customers, many of whom are operating on a tighter budget this year.”
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