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Good Question: Thanksgiving Now – Will Stores Open Christmas Day Next?

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) - Three years ago, virtually no stores were open on Thanksgiving Day. This year, Walmart, Sears, Kmart, and Toys 'R' Us will open at 8 p.m. Target will open an hour later at 9 p.m.

Casey St. Clair, a California Target employee who created an online petition urging Target executives to reclaim Thanksgiving as a day off

"I felt like that was kind of crossing the line, breaching into the day that we all had off," St. Clair said.

She dropped off 350,000 signatures at Target headquarters in downtown Minneapolis.

Tim Curoe, Target's senior vice president for human resources, picked them up.

"We recognize that for some of our team members, this will cut into their time with family and friends," Curoe said.

But if retailers are now open on Thanksgiving Day, will opening stores on Christmas Day be next?

Joel Waldfogel is chair of applied economics at University of Minnesota's Carlson School of Management. He's also author of the book "Scroogenomics," a study of the inefficiency of giving holiday gifts.

"Once your competitors open on Thanksgiving, it's a disaster for you if you're not open on Thanksgiving," Waldfogel said. "There is actually believable evidence that the longer the holiday shopping season is, the more people actually spend."

You'd think people would have a budget, but when there's an early Thanksgiving - we spend more, according to economists.

"Holiday gift giving's not like automobiles. Being open more, people will spend more...I don't think people impulsively, accidentally buy a car just because a dealer's open," he said.

According to Waldfogel, economists think every bonus shopping day leads to us spending an extra $6.50. Across the U.S. that's nearly $2 billion in extra spending, and when you have a year with an early Thanksgiving - like this year - that's a big deal.

Waldfogel added that it's logical to think that a Thanksgiving opening doesn't just reallocate spending that would have happened on Friday. It generates new spending.

"Thanksgiving is a day when a lot of people are not at work. It strikes me that it should be as good as any day, if not better," he said.

According to Waldfogel, it's not clear though if having an extra day at the end of the season would have the same result. No one knows what having a store open on Christmas would mean in terms of revenue.

And the buzz and excitement that comes in getting an early start on Black Friday might not translate when it comes to Christmas Day.

"It's possible that some people would find it so distasteful that you're open on Christmas that they'd actually get upset with you and not patronize you for the rest of the year," he said.

That hasn't happened with the Thanksgiving openings, however.

"But Thanksgiving isn't a religious holiday subject to these kinds of potentially explosive reactions," said Waldfogel.

So will it happen?

"I would not be surprised," Waldfogel said. "Once some major player decides to do it, I suspect there would be pressure for other major players to decide to do it."

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