Gray Thursday: Kmart Opens at 6 AM on Thanksgiving

The retailer Kmart did not observe the Thanksgiving holiday at all this year, opening their stores at 6 AM and remaining open for 41 straight hours. 

The store has received mass criticism, but data shows Kmart may actually start a trend due to consumer demands.

"We understand many associates want to spend time with their families during the holiday," the company said. 

"With this in mind Kmart stores do their very best to staff with seasonal associates and those who are needed to work holidays. All associates who work on Thanksgiving are compensated with holiday pay."

Kmart and other stores asked for volunteers to work on Thanksgiving. One employee in Manhattan volunteered to pick up the time and a half for working on the holiday. Target, which opened their stores at 9PM, found so many volunteers to work the holiday it has had to create a wait list.

"When we made the decision to open our doors at 9pm on Thanksgiving, the first thing we did was reach out to all of our store leaders and ask them to have discussions with their team members and seek volunteers wanting to work," Tina Schiel, executive vice president of stores for Target, said.

"We had so many team members who wanted to work on Thursday that hundreds of our stores are now keeping lists of volunteers who want to work if shifts open up."

In Burbank, CA, many customers lined up at Kmart and took advantage of the sales. Shana Morrow picked up a 7-inch Android tablet for $39.99 and said she would be home by 8 AM. The store closed at 5 PM and reopened at 7 PM after restocking.

Greed is the most common criticism of Black Friday's extension into Thursday, but Forbes says data from Mastercard shows stores have a legitimate motive trying to be the first ones open on Thanksgiving or Black Friday. The data shows customers will spend up to 70% more at the first two stores they visit, and adults spend over 50% of their Christmas budget between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday.

“The reality is these [objections] are not reinforced by consumers attending these events and spending their money,” said John Talbott, associate director of the Center for Education  and Research in Retailing at the Indiana University Kelley School of Business.

“The Black Friday season is truly a retail arms race,” he said. “Many studies indicate that the consumer has a relatively fixed level of spend for the holiday season. Consumers spend the budget they have in the time that is available for them to do it.”

Talbott believes other outlets will follow Kmart's example and open early out of necessity.

This is likely to force a competitive response in the future so that the fixed spend of consumer dollars available are not sent in the direction of a specific retailer simply because they offer their deals to consumers earlier than others. My guess is Kmart will open at 6 a.m. and stay open 41 straight hours, shoppers will buy, and next year we’ll see other retailers follow to rebalance competitive playing fields.

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