Business Beat: The disappearing Thanksgiving retail holiday

Back when I worked in retail, I remember grumbling about having to be at work at 6 a.m. in order to open the store at 8 a.m. for Black Friday.

Obviously, that was back in the Dark Ages, because 8 a.m. is practically midday for Black Friday shoppers these days, particularly in the larger chain stores. It started a few years ago with openings at midnight, and has moved progressively earlier since then.

This week, some of them started announcing their Black Friday plans, and if you want to join the early crowds, you’d better eat that Thanksgiving dinner even earlier.

Kohl’s, Best Buy, Macy’s and Sears will open at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving. JCPenney, which a couple of years ago declined to match the midnight openings of its competitors, has gone in the other direction this year, with an opening set at 5 p.m.

Marketing Manager Annie Amies said Vintage Faire Mall is following suit this year. For the past few years, the mall has hosted a “midnight madness” event that has attracted hundreds of shoppers, but now owner Macerich is upping the ante.

“We’re opening at 6 p.m.,” Amies said. Management told the individual stores it’s up to them whether they want to open on Thanksgiving, but Amies said it’s likely they will.

A few miles to the south, the manager of the Merced Mall said although the anchor stores might open that Thursday, the rest of the mall is sticking to 6 a.m. Friday.

And that’s a growing sentiment among some retailers. Several companies are publicizing their decision to remain closed on Thanksgiving, leading to what Time magazine referred to as “retail shaming.” That’s in response to backlash from some customers in recent years.

Some have started to petition stores such as Target and Walmart, asking them to refrain from opening on Thanksgiving so their employees can celebrate the holiday with their families.

Those petitions haven’t gotten very far. Many Walmarts are open for 24 hours most days of the year, excluding Christmas itself. And while Target has not announced its Black Friday plans this year, I suspect it, too, will open its doors earlier than 2013’s 8 p.m.

I can see both sides of the argument. Those who argue that the holidays have become too commercial have a point. But these are businesses, and the holiday season is the most crucial time of the year for them. It makes sense that they will take nearly any step to get the jump on their competitors, and the jobs they provide are important to the economy.

Locally, Crescent Work and Outdoor also opens on Thanksgiving. But that came about by accident. Owner Craig Stott told me that several years ago, he was at the downtown Modesto store, doing some paperwork while the turkey cooked at home, when a customer stopped by to buy something. He opened up, and ever since the store has opened for a few hours Thanksgiving morning.

I wonder why there isn’t such a backlash for other holidays. You could argue that Independence Day is as important a holiday to this country as Thanksgiving, but I haven’t heard of any outcry for retail businesses to close that day. And obviously, there are any number of professions – medicine, public safety, journalism (ahem) – that require working holidays.

For the record, the most unpleasant holiday shift I ever worked was in a fireworks booth on the Fourth of July some years back. The job actually was great fun, but the pay wasn’t great – I was a volunteer – and a tin box on hot asphalt isn’t the nicest place to be when it’s 104 degrees outside.

Elsewhere around the Business Beat

I have heard several positive reviews of Pastas Pronto, which opened almost exactly two years ago on H Street. I haven’t managed to make it in there yet, despite the fact it’s just down the road from The Modesto Bee. But business must be good, because the owners are expanding.

A reader wrote in this week to ask when the new Pastas Pronto at Coffee Road and East Rumble Road will open. The answer, it turns out, is, uh, pronto. According to the restaurant’s Facebook page, the owners hope to be open by the end of the month.

Have an item for Business Beat? Breaking News Editor Patty Guerra can be reached at or (209) 578-2343. Follow her on Twitter @PattyGuerra.