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Walmart CEO Says Opening on Thanksgiving Is a ‘Thing of the Past’

Samantha Franco
Photo Credit: ANDREW HOLBROOKE / Corbis via Getty Images
Photo Credit: ANDREW HOLBROOKE / Corbis via Getty Images

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, many have wondered whether their favorite retailers, like Walmart, would be open on the holiday this year. Following two years of the coronavirus pandemic, it seems the trend of staying closed on Thanksgiving has stuck. Walmart will not open on Turkey Day, and other big retailers, including Target, are following suit.

Thanksgiving is traditionally the start of the holiday shopping season

Crowds at a busy Walmart register
Cesar Rodriguez, left, buys a Nintendo Gameboy from Walmart associate Sofie Castillo as others wait to do the same. (Photo Credit: Bryan Chan/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

The holiday shopping frenzy traditionally starts the day after Thanksgiving, dubbed “Black Friday,” and continues on through “Cyber Monday” and beyond. However, some big retailers like Walmart started opening their doors on Thanksgiving Day in 2012, hoping to lure in shoppers eager for discounts.

Katherine Cullen, senior director of industry and consumer insights for the National Retail Federation, said “Thanksgiving used to be kind of the kickoff to the holiday season. It was when a lot of people started their holiday shopping.”

But as the shopping season crept up earlier and earlier, retailers began offering deep discounts even before Thanksgiving with some starting their holiday sales as early as Halloween. Eventually, the entire month of November became known as “Black November.”

What about the workers?

A man's back turned to the camera showing the Walmart slogan on his vest, a price sign reading "88 cents" behind him
All Wal-Mart employees wear the company’s customer service slogan on the back of their uniform vests. (Photo Credit: Gilles Mingasson / Getty Images)

Staying open on Thanksgiving meant that employees were unable to spend the holiday with their families and had to work instead, although many retailers did offer their staff competitive pay for their services on that day.

Labor groups were often at odds with retailers who opened on the holiday, arguing that employees should be at home with their families on Thanksgiving rather than having to deal with the rush of bargain hunters.

Walmart will no longer be open on Thanksgiving

The outside of a Walmart store, people walking with carts in front
People wearing protective masks walk from a Walmart store on May 18, 2021, in Hallandale Beach, Florida. They were required to wear masks as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo Credit: Joe Raedle / Getty Images)

Walmart CEO, John Furner, said in an interview that the company will no longer be open on Thanksgiving. The mega-retailer, as well as other stores, had to close their doors due to the coronavirus pandemic in 2020. Many of the closures lasted into 2021 with the pandemic still a public health concern.

Furner confirmed they will not be opening their doors for this year’s Thanksgiving, simply saying “It’s a thing of the past.” Though many speculated whether Walmart would re-open its doors on the holiday, the company is happy to allow employees to have the day off. “All of our associates will be able to spend time with their loved ones this year,” Furner said on the Today show.

Online shopping helps

A woman looking at a website on her laptop that reads "SALE"
A woman browses a website on a laptop computer in Singapore, on Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2016. (Photo Credit: Nicky Loh / Bloomberg / Getty Images)

One of the reasons staying closed on Thanksgiving is feasible for Walmart and other retailers is because of the rise in online shopping. Customers are able to take advantage of the big sales right from the comfort of their homes. Providing sales online also helps businesses spread the demand for products that would have otherwise been concentrated on only a couple of days.

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“Consumers seem to like the option to spread out their budget, they like the ability to not have to concentrate all their shopping on an individual day,” Cullen explained. “That kind of takes some of the pressure off of Thanksgiving Day specifically.”

Samantha Franco

Samantha Franco is a Freelance Content Writer who received her Bachelor of Arts degree in history from the University of Guelph, and her Master of Arts degree in history from the University of Western Ontario. Her research focused on Victorian, medical, and epidemiological history with a focus on childhood diseases. Stepping away from her academic career, Samantha previously worked as a Heritage Researcher and now writes content for multiple sites covering an array of historical topics.

In her spare time, Samantha enjoys reading, knitting, and hanging out with her dog, Chowder!