Thanksgiving appears to be the latest victim of Christmas creep as many of the nation's major retailers have announced they will stay open over the holiday with several pushing opening hours even earlier than last year. Among them are Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT), the nation's biggest retailer, and Macy's (NYSE:M), the biggest department-store chain. The push comes as many stores have seen sales stagnate or even fall due to competition from online channels and lackluster wage growth.
Thanksgiving is getting intense enough that a Buffalo mall is even forcing tenants to open by 6 p.m. or risk being fined as much as $200 an hour in order to keep up with the big-box stores.
And while Thanksgiving shopping may be becoming the norm for retailers looking for a boost to their bottom line and consumers looking to jump-start their gift-buying, there are still several nationwide retailers that are remaining closed for Turkey Day, including Costco (NASDAQ:COST), Nordstrom, and Barnes & Noble.
What happened to turkey and football?
Retailers like Wal-Mart argue that Thanksgiving hours are in place in response to customer demand, but the decision comes at the expense of another set of important stakeholders -- employees. As many as 1,500 people have signed on to a boycott of the Buffalo mall making its stores open and many others have taken activist measures to fight the Black Friday creep. A University of Connecticut poll also found that 49% of Americans disapprove of the retailers' decision to stay open on Thanksgiving while only 16% approve, indicating that the workers have the country's support.
For retail investors, the decision to open for Thanksgiving might be a sign of deeper troubles as many of those retailers are struggling, while those staying closed on Thanksgiving are on more solid ground.
For example, J.C. Penney, Radio Shack, and Sears Holdings, which also owns KMart, have all put up massive losses in recent years and even their existence in the near future is in jeopardy. J.C. Penney stock is still mired in the single digits after former CEO Ron Johnson's misguided attempt at revamping the company, while Sears continues its unraveling, harvesting various subsidiaries in order to stay afloat. When the company reports earnings later this month, analysts are expecting a 17% drop in sales. Finally, Radio Shack may be the closest of the three to liquidation with a 20% drop in comps in its most recent quarter, though it recently gained emergency financing from creditors.
Elsewhere, Wal-Mart expects earnings per share to fall this year as domestic sales have flatlined, while Macy's saw declining sales in its quarterly report last week and was forced to lower its full year earnings forecast. Finally, following last year's data breach, Target is also expecting full-year earnings to decline.
Among stores set to close for Thanksgiving, Costco is having another strong year, with earnings per share set to grow more than 10% as the warehouse retailer saw comparable sales jump 7% in October. Nordstrom is also looking strong as same-store sales were up 4% in its most recent quarter, and even Barnes & Noble, the bookseller hobbled by Amazon.com, is on track for its first profitable year in a long time.
What do the employees think?
Perhaps, it's no surprise that the struggling chains are the ones open on Thanksgiving as the move may be more of a sign of desperation than anything else. Not surprisingly, employee reviews of companies open on Thanksgiving were also worse, as the data below from Glassdoor.com shows.
|Retailers open on Thanksgiving||Overall employee rating out of 5||CEO approval percentage|
|Retailers closed on Thanksgiving||Overall employee rating out of 5||CEO approval percentage|
|Barnes & Noble||3.4||61%|
With the exception of Gamestop and Dillard's, all of the companies closing for Thanksgiving outperform the ones staying open. The difference becomes even more pronounced when looking at the CEO rating.
But that shouldn't come as a great surprise. Happy and motivated employees are a key component of any successful company as a company like Costco understands. For the businesses that choose to remain open for Thanksgiving, the incremental sales will ultimately be negligible, but the fallout in employee loyalty and dissatisfaction could do more than a little harm over the long run.