BY KAVITA KUMAR
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH/MCT
Jim von Maur knows he may lose out on some business by not opening on Thanksgiving Day. But he doesn’t care.
“We think it’s well worth it to miss out on those sales so sales associates can spend time with their families,” said the president of the Iowa-based chain of 29 Von Maur department stores.
What does he think about the other retailers who are opening on Thanksgiving?
“It’s too bad,” he said. “I think it will hurt employee morale, and I don’t think they’ll get that much more business. … If you run an exciting store, you don’t have to do all of these games and gimmicks to get people through your doors.”
Many big box and department stores have generated buzz for their decisions to open earlier than ever this year on Thanksgiving Day, with a number of stores opening at 6 p.m. and 8 p.m.
No blockbuster deals
Thirty-three million shoppers are expected to hit those sales that night. But the moved-up openings haven’t come without complaints from shoppers and workers about the sales intruding on their holiday.
Von Maur is one of an increasingly vocal group of renegade retailers taking a stand against Black Friday creep. Resisting competitive pressures to open on Thanksgiving, they are actually starting their Black Friday sales on Friday.
It should be noted, though, that Von Maur doesn’t offer any door-buster deals or have other special Black Friday sales. So it won’t open in the pre-dawn hours on Black Friday. It will open just one hour earlier than normal, at 9 a.m.
‘Time for togetherness’
Some of the other stores on the not-on-Thanksgiving list include Costco, Cabela’s, Nordstrom and Menards. Many of the stores on the list either don’t have big Black Friday sales or are a specialty retailer with a niche following.
“As a family-owned company, Menards believes that Thanksgiving is a time for togetherness, which should be celebrated with all those we hold dear,” the Wisconsin-based home-improvement retailer said in a statement. “With this in mind, we decided to remain closed on Thanksgiving Day so you, as well as our team members, can celebrate this joyous time with family and friends.”
When Menards stores open at 6 a.m. on Black Friday, officials said they still expect to have lines waiting outside the doors because of sales and discounts for that day.
Cabela’s, the Nebraska-based retailer that sells everything from camping gear to hunting rifles and ammunition, always draws hundreds of people outside its store at the St. Louis Outlet Mall for its 5 a.m. opening on Black Friday.
Loyal customer base
Wes Remmer, a Cabela’s spokesman, said the company wants to give its staff a rest on Thanksgiving. After all, they will need it to gear up for Black Friday, which is always a huge day for the company.
“We have really good turnouts on the Friday after Thanksgiving,” he said, noting that the first 600 people in line receive some sort of giveaway, from a gift card to binoculars to smokers. “It’s what makes Cabela’s really unique — we have that loyal customer base.”
Nordstrom doesn’t really have door-buster deals on Black Friday, but it does have some sales and promotions in its stores that day. It is a busy day for the store — but not its busiest, which would be first few days of its anniversary sale in July.
“Over the years, it’s been our approach to be closed on Thanksgiving,” said Colin Johnson, a Nordstrom spokesman. “One of the nice things about this is it makes the Friday after pretty exciting because that’s when we unveil our holiday trim.”
‘Respect the turkey’
Indeed, the company often gets kudos from the “respect the turkey” crowd for not putting up its holiday decorations until the day after Thanksgiving, unlike others that have had Christmas decorations up in stores since Halloween.
“We just like the idea of celebrating one holiday at a time,” Nordstrom often says on signs placed in its stores.
Still, the Friday unveiling of holiday trim means that some Nordstrom employees will work through the night to set up the store displays, Johnson noted.
More hours, more sales
For those Nordstrom customers who want to shop on Thanksgiving, Johnson said they can do so online and pick up their items in the store or take advantage of free shipping.
“We’re always going to be focused on the needs of our customers rather than on what the competition is doing,” Johnson added.
Some marketing experts have noted that retailers who take a stance against opening on Thanksgiving may benefit from some positive PR buzz. But will it pay off for them in the end?
Not likely, says Jim Fisher, a marketing professor at St. Louis University. He said the retailers that aren’t opening on Thanksgiving Day do so at their own peril.
“It’s almost a matter of math,” he said. “If you’re open more hours, you’re more likely to do more sales.”