Black Friday: Some retailers defer to Thanksgiving family time

Plenty of businesses are interrupting turkey dinners to open on Thanksgiving this year, but the few that aren't could indicate a shift toward putting family – or at least online shopping – first.

John Minchillo/Target/AP
Guests take to their carts as they enter Target during the Black Friday sale, Thursday, Nov. 27, 2014, in the Harlem neighborhood of New York.

Anxious shoppers who have watched the march of Black Friday retail further and further into Thanksgiving Day, wondering where it would end, may have an answer.

Target, Toys "R" Us, and Macy's are opening on Thanksgiving Day, just like they did in 2014. But unlike last year, they will open at the same time as before, and not earlier, Money reported. Staples and H&M have even announced that stores will stay closed on the holiday, despite opening last year. 

It's not so much a retreat in the advancement of Christmas commercialization onto Thanksgiving Day as a halt of the forward motion. The shift from the Black Friday trends of recent years may be a victory for protesters angry about the commercialization of holiday family time. 

One group is celebrating the small victories. The Boycott Black Thursday Facebook group has more than 139,000 likes and uses #KeepFamilyFirst. The group congratulated Cabela's for the notice, "Out of respect for our family and yours, our retail stores will be closed Thanksgiving Day." 

It might be a "Miracle on 34th Street"-esque shift toward pro-family business practices, or it might not. Money cites the "point of diminishing returns," at which stores recognize a limit on how much excitement they can really drum up over heavily-discounted electronics. Black Friday weekend sales fell 11 percent in 2014 despite early openings, according to the National Retail Federation. REI, sensing a change in the public's perceptions of the Black Friday blowout, has released all its workers for not just Thanksgiving Day but also for Black Friday itself, Forbes reported.  

Of course, plenty of stores will still open for business while Thanksgiving dinner is still hot, but some are either bowing to the pressure of advocates for family time or taking the battle to the digital front. 

Kyley Ball, a mother of seven from Arizona, tells The Christian Science Monitor that she no longer feels the need to show up on Black Friday, much less leave for Target during Thanksgiving dinner, because the sales are comparable online. 

"For at least the last five years, everything in the ads was also online at Kohls and Target, so why fight the rush?" she tells The Christian Science Monitor. "You can't wait for that Thanksgiving newspaper because most online deals have already started."

Her view is becoming increasingly common. The number of shoppers who want to do all the Christmas shopping from the comfort of home has risen every year for a decade, and 46 percent of consumers don't plan to shop at a store on any day this holiday season, according to the National Retail Federation. 

These consumer habits may gradually shift retailers' attention away from brick-and-morter stores on Thanksgiving Day and toward digital sales. Both Best Buy and Target, for example, have already promised free shipping for online sales during the holiday season.

Ms. Ball says the chance of early shopping minus the stress of fighting the crowds for deals is the best part of online Black Friday sales.

"I can walk around on Black Friday and know everything I had to have is headed to my house," she says. "Free shipping."

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