Should Stores Open on Thanksgiving Day?

Nov 14, 2015

Two weeks ago, outdoor store REI announced that it would close on Thanksgiving and Black Friday, and that it would pay its employees to do exactly what REI advertises — get outside and explore. H&M, GameStop, and Costco also have announced that they plan to close on Thanksgiving.

But when it comes to big retailers, they are in the minority. Many big box stores — including Target, JCPenney, Macy’s, and Best Buy, among others — plan to open their doors on Thanksgiving.

With many stores allowing Black Friday to bleed into what some are now calling Gray Thursday, you might think there’s a huge consumer demand for shopping on Thanksgiving Day. You would be wrong.

In fact, only 12% of shoppers plan to do any shopping this Thanksgiving Day compared to 41% of shoppers who plan to find deals in stores on Black Friday, according to a recent study by the International Council of Shopping Centers. These findings fall in line with a recent survey by

We asked more than 12,000 users  who have signed petitions related to Thanksgiving if they will shop on Thanksgiving Day, and 82% of respondents said they will spend Thanksgiving Day with their families and not shop.

When asked what they thought businesses should do to support their employees during the upcoming holiday season, 65% of respondents said businesses should close on Thanksgiving.  

When it came to the respondents’ biggest concern about stores’ business practices during the holidays, 47% said that their biggest concern is employees not having a choice whether to work on a holiday. Forty percent said their biggest concern is stores being open on holidays like Thanksgiving.

Trending toward Gray Thursday

In 2011, a retailer being open on Thanksgiving was something of a novelty. But over the years, more stores started to open on Thanksgiving, and now being closed on the holiday is a novelty.

In our own research, we found that as the number of big box stores opening on Thanksgiving Day has increased, so has the number of petitions started to “Save Thanksgiving.”

We also found that 76% of related petition signatures call for Target — along with other retailers, in some cases — to close on the Thanksgiving. It’s interesting to note that the signature spike seen in 2012 around those petitions correlates with the first year that Target opened its doors on Thanksgiving Day at 9PM.  

And yet, after five years of petitions to save Thanksgiving, this is the first year that Target and Macy’s have not opened earlier than previous years.

So far this year, we have again seen many petitions asking big box stores, both locally and nationally, to close on Thanksgiving Day. Here are three petitions to #SaveThanksgiving that are trending right now:


Three Petitions Hoping to Save Thanksgiving

1. Tell JCPenney to Close for Thanksgiving

When Bill Nichols found out that his wife, an employee at JCPenney, would have to work on Thanksgiving Day, he started a petition asking the store to close for the holiday. Bill writes, “Last year and now again this year the executives of JCPenney have decided that being open on Thanksgiving day is more important than the family lives of their thousands of employees.”


2.  Don’t Open for Business on Thanksgiving Day

Jerry Palacios, a Macy’s employee, started a petition on after years of working earlier and earlier on Thanksgiving Day. Jerry explains, “Macy’s needs to understand that the families of its employees matter more than the bottom line and not open its stores on Thanksgiving Day.”


3. Target: Don’t Open on Thanksgiving

Ryan Zeilman loves working at Target, but since he started working there over nine years ago, Thanksgiving Day has become part of the regular schedule. So Ryan started a petition asking Target to close on Thanksgiving, saying, “Thanksgiving is one of the few holidays that celebrates family and community, no matter your faith or cultural background. We need leaders like Target to push back against the shopping frenzy, and help keep the Thanksgiving tradition alive.”


Want to make sure your local store isn’t open on Thanksgiving?