November 22, 2012

Modern retailing doesn't take a holiday

Stores that once waited until the wee hours of the day after Thanksgiving now open their doors on Thanksgiving evening.

The Associated Press

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Shoppers roll a television out of a Big K-Mart in Myrtle, S.C., on Thanksgiving Day.

The Associated Press

It's her first time camping out for the specials, and she's not sure she will do it again. Relatives will bring her some holiday dinner, but she'll miss eating her dad's stuffing right as he cooks it.

"We'll miss the actual being there with family, but we'll have the rest of the weekend for that," she said.

But not everyone likes the idea of Turkey Day shopping. Some retailers that are opening on Thanksgiving face criticism from workers who complain that the holiday should be a time for everyone to spend with their family.

A New York-based union-backed group of retail workers called Retail Action Project was planning protests in the Manhattan borough of New York City on Thanksgiving in front of several stores, including AnnTaylor, Forever 21 and others that opened at midnight on Black Friday and earlier.

"It shows that the companies are not valuing their workers. They're looking to their workers to squeeze out more profits," said Carrie Gleason, director of Retail Action Project.

Walmart, the world's largest retailer, has been one of the biggest targets of protests against holiday hours. The issue is part of a broader campaign against the company's treatment of workers that's being waged by a union-backed group called OUR Walmart, which includes former and current workers. It's staging demonstrations and walkouts at hundreds of stores on Black Friday.

Mary Pat Tifft, a Walmart employee in Kenosha, Wis., who is a member of OUR Walmart, started an online petition on signon.org that has about 34,000 signatures.

"This Thanksgiving, while millions of families plan to spend quality time with their loved ones, Walmart associates have been told we will be stocking shelves and preparing sales starting at 8 p.m.," she wrote on the site.

But retailers say they are giving shoppers what they want. Dave Tovar, a Walmart spokesman, said that the discounter learned from shoppers that they want to start shopping right after Thanksgiving dinner. Then, they want to have time to go to bed before they wake up to head back out to the stores.

Still, Tovar said that Walmart works to accommodate its workers' requests for different working hours. "We spent a lot of time talking to them, trying to figure out when would be the best time for our events," he said.

Kathee Tesija, Target's executive vice president of merchandising, said Target's 9 p.m. opening struck "a perfect balance" for its customers. "We thought long and hard about when the right opening time would be," she said, adding that Target "wants to make sure we are competitive."

 

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