Many retail store parking lots will be empty on Thanksgiving Day 2020.
A retail tradition seems to be eroding.
Walmart, Target, Best Buy, Kohl's and Dick’s Sporting Goods have all said that they will shut their (physical) doors this Thanksgiving. Consumers, of course, can still shop online while waiting for the turkey to cook, or while the Thanksgiving feast digests.
Indeed, in this year of pandemic — and all of the store closures and e-commerce and contactless transactions that have come with it — retailers are justifying the Thanksgiving Day closures by pointing out the usefulness of digital transactions and services.
“To meet our customers’ changing lives this holiday, we’re enhancing the way we fulfill orders, from offering more convenient pickup options at our stores to making sure BestBuy.com orders arrive at the right time,” is how Richfield, Minnesota-based Best Buy put it. “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. With these changes, we’ve also decided to close our stores on Thanksgiving Day.”
The avoidance of crowds also is playing a role in Thanksgiving Day retail in 2020.
“Historically, deal hunting and holiday shopping can mean crowded events, and this isn’t a year for crowds,” Minneapolis-based Target said, promising upcoming holiday deals starting in October, earlier than has previously been the case for the retailer. Target first opened for Thanksgiving Day in 2011.
Retailers are generally following the lead of Bentonville, Arkansas-based Walmart, which made public its intended Thanksgiving Day closure earlier in July.
“The holiday season is when Kohl’s shines brightest, and as we move into the holiday season of this very unusual year, we are adapting our plans in response to changing customer expectations and behaviors,” said Michelle Gass, CEO of Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin-based Kohl's. “We are deeply appreciative of how our team of Kohl’s associates have shown up to serve our customers through this pandemic, and know that they will continue to show Kohl's at our best throughout the holidays.”
Even with some major retail chains closed on Thanksgiving Day, the weekend, which includes Black Friday and Cyber Monday, promises to serve as a spark plug for the 2020 holiday shopping season — even if spending turns out to be depressed by the pandemic and its resulting job and income losses. Last year, for example, nearly 190 million U.S. consumers shopped during the long Thanksgiving weekend, up 14% from 2019, according to the Washington, D.C.-based National Retail Federation. Shoppers spent an average $361.90 on holiday items over that five-day period, up 16% from $313.29 during the same period last year, the trade group said.