Thanksgiving is still four months away but retailers are preparing for a different holiday shopping season amid the coronavirus pandemic.
For years, Thanksgiving and Black Friday have marked the official kickoff to the holiday shopping season and the time of year when shoppers get focused on holiday spending.
That rush of spending gave Black Friday its name, as in the time of year when retailers were “in the black.” For nearly a decade, that official kickoff has been creeping ever closer to Thanksgiving, eating into time people used to spend around the holiday table.
Enter 2020 and the pandemic.
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Some of the nation’s largest retailers, who usually share holiday plans starting in October, have announced they are breaking with recent tradition and will close on Thanksgiving.
Walmart kicked off the Thanksgiving closure announcements July 21 with Target and Dick’s Sporting Goods making similar declarations Monday.
Best Buy joined the list Tuesday saying the holiday season is “going to look different.” Kohl’s announced Wednesday that its stores would be closed on the holiday, too.
“To meet our customers’ changing lives this holiday, we’re enhancing the way we fulfill orders, from offering more convenient pick-up options at our stores, to making sure BestBuy.com orders arrive at the right time,” the electronics retailer said in a statement.
Neil Saunders, managing director of the retail consultancy Global Data, said he expects more stores will soon announce holiday closings.
“Under present conditions, the idea of any retailer driving crowds of people into their store is a non-starter,” Saunders said. “No retailer can run the risk of overcrowding and so all will be looking to balance the need to drive sales with the need to keep people safe.”
Other retailers have not announced whether they will open on Thanksgiving like they have in the past. USA TODAY reached out to Macy’s, J.C. Penney and other companies but none of them would say whether they would be open on Thanksgiving or not. Office Depot confirmed it planned to keep its stores closed again on Thanksgiving.
Some retailers have traditionally stayed closed on the holiday including Apple, wholesale clubs Costco and Sam’s Club, home improvement stores Home Depot and Lowe’s. (See the stores closed Thanksgiving 2019 here.)
While stores are saying they will stay closed on Thanksgiving, they haven’t shared yet when they will open on Black Friday and how the sales will be handled. In past years, they started to share holiday plans including when they would kick off Black Friday sales in late October or early November.
Michael Brown, a partner in the consumer practice at Kearney, a global strategy and management consultant firm, said holiday sales will need to start “as early as October for retailers to have enough selling days in restricted occupancy stores.”
“You’ll see dramatic spikes in e-commerce sales, so shoppers should expect longer shipping times as fulfillment centers run at peak,” Brown said. “They’ll also see some inconsistency in delivery times as fulfillment centers may close if a COVID-19 case is discovered.”
Retailers have also shared deals will start earlier than past years.
“We’re also going to start offering some of the hottest deals of the season earlier than ever, to make it even easier for our customers to check off their gift lists,” Best Buy said in its statement.
Closed Thanksgiving 2020
Academy Sports + Outdoors
Dick’s Sporting Goods
Contributing: Charisse Jones