Here is something that you don't see every day: Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT ) is announcing today that it will open two hours earlier on Thanksgiving, and it isn't likely to catch any kind of material flack for its actions.
The leading discount department store chain has been pushing its Black Friday sales deeper into Thursday with every passing year. Wal-Mart decided to open at 10 p.m. on Thanksgiving two years ago. It kicked off its holiday shopping season at 8 p.m. on Thursday last year. This year, the retailer will unlock its doors at 6 p.m.
Wal-Mart's announcements of earlier Thanksgiving holiday openings have drawn the boo birds before. Between employees and shoppers who will have to cut their festive Thanksgiving meals short, it's easy to knock Wal-Mart. However, there isn't likely to be a lot of bellyaching this time around. Everybody seems to be doing it, and no chain is throwing itself out there on Turkey Day the way that Sears Holdings' (NASDAQ: SHLD ) Kmart is doing.
Kmart turned heads earlier this month by announcing that it will open at 6 a.m. on Thanksgiving and remain open for a 41-hour span. The move has lit up social media with folks threatening to boycott Kmart, but we know that they're all talk. No one boycotts Kmart, they just don't shop there in the first place. The boycott is just a formality. Kmart's sliding comps bear that out as its stores languish in dire need of makeovers that they're not receiving. If anything, Wal-Mart protesters may actually be grateful that the chain's employees aren't joining Kmart's crew in coming in a dozen hours earlier.
The naysayers won't admit that. They also are unlikely to fess up that there's no shortage of employees who will volunteer for the extra hours to pad their take-home pay. There will also be no shortage of shoppers grateful that they didn't have to head to the stores in the middle of the night, potentially shivering in long lines the way they used to when Black Friday was still a thing.
Retailers don't have much of a choice but to open on Thanksgiving, and to open earlier than last year. Because of where the fourth Thursday in November falls on the calendar this year, this is the shortest possible holiday shopping season. Wal-Mart isn't going to make up last year's six extra days in two hours, but at least it can open this year knowing that Kmart and even Toys R Us will be starting even earlier.
There are plenty of legitimate reasons to knock Wal-Mart. But Kmart stretching its 22-year streak of Thanksgiving Thursday openings with even longer hours will make sure that Wal-Mart doesn't get singled out this desperate shopping season.
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