Closed for Thanksgiving: Will others follow Mall of America's lead?

Some retailers who recently started opening up 'Christmas creep' shopping on Thanksgiving Thursday are now pushing back, encouraging workers and shoppers to celebrate with their families. 

PRNewsFoto/ Mall of America
Santa kicks off the 2015 holiday season by snapping the world's largest "elfie" at Mall of America(R) with 500 of his closest friends.

The holiday-shopping madness of Black Friday has crept earlier and earlier in recent years, as retailers have opened for business on Thanksgiving Day. That trend could be reversing, however, if other shopping centers follow Mall of America's lead.

The largest shopping mall in the United States, based in Bloomington, Minn., announced Wednesday that it will remain closed this year on the American holiday, giving employees more time to spend with loved ones.

"We think Thanksgiving is a day for families and for people we care about," Jill Renslow, senior vice president of marketing, told The Associated Press. "We want to give this day back."

In 2012, the mall opened immediately after Thanksgiving had ended, at midnight. In 2013, it opened four hours earlier, at 8 p.m. Then in 2014 and 2015, it opened at 6 p.m. All this movement to compete for early-bird customers reflects a nationwide trend, but the mall now says letting the pendulum reverse course is the right thing to do.

Although individual stores inside the mall have the discretion to remain open for the holiday, if they wish, the mall's decision could result in a day off for the 15,000 people who work there.

"We had tenants with tears of joy that they could share the news with their employees," Ms. Renslow told CNN Money.

The move drew praise from shoppers and store owners alike, as CBS Minnesota reported.

"Everybody wants to spend Thanksgiving with their families, and we are thrilled to be able to do that this year with the Mall of America's support," Tamra Kramer, who co-owns an oil and spice shop with her daughter, told the local TV station.

Ben Graff, a mall patron, told station it's "nice to have a corporation taking care of its people."

But in the same way that opening earlier in recent years has been a response to market pressures, so too is it a business decision to open later. Retail encroachment on Thanksgiving, or "Christmas creep," has been terribly unpopular. About three-quarters of people surveyed for a poll published by TIME agree that the so-called "Gray Thursday" trend is annoying.

Personal finance blogger Rebecca Lehmann wrote last year that many retailers are beginning to see value in staying closed for the holiday.

"And they're not doing so quietly, instead choosing to [make] it part of their strategy to attract shoppers," Ms. Lehmann wrote. "The executive quotes we've seen so far strike a tone that is simultaneously nostalgic, defiant, and family-oriented, clearly setting themselves up as one of the good guys in the Gray Thursday debate."

Last month, office supply store Staples Inc. announced it will close on Thanksgiving for the second year in a row, and high-end retailers Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, and Saks Fifth Avenue have remained closed for the holiday all along.

The mall expects to attract the business of about 400,000 visitors over the holiday weekend again this year, Renslow said.

Individual stores that opt to open on Thanksgiving anyway will be listed on the mall's website, mallofamerica.com.

Material from the Associated Press was included in this report.

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