It's unlikely that others will follow in outdoor retailer REI's footsteps and opt to close for business on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving and typically the top-selling day of the year. But more retailers are rethinking keeping their doors open on Thanksgiving, reversing a trend that began in recent years.
As other retailers pushed back Black Friday hours into Thanksgiving, the department store chain Von Maur continued its policy of remaining closed on major holidays. Workers at its 30 stores get paid days off on the Fourth of July, Labor Day, Memorial Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's.
"Black Friday for us is we open at 9 a.m., or one hour earlier -- that's our big extended hours," said Melody Von Maur, chief operating officer at the family-owned business. "For the last 15 years, stores started opening earlier and earlier on Black Friday, and that bled into Thanksgiving. It's really just shifting sales around, and doing it at the cost of your employees."
The decision to stay closed on Thanksgiving as competitors extended the hours available to consumers eager to shop on a day traditionally reserved for eating, family and football hasn't affected the business, in operation since 1872, said Von Maur. "Our sales have still grown -- we're usually a couple of percentage points higher than the typical average for the holiday season."
REI, however, is taking the idea of giving workers paid holiday time off a step further. The retailer on Tuesday said it would close all 143 of its retail locations, its headquarters and two distribution centers on Black Friday, saying it's paying its 12,000 employees so "they can do what they love most -- be outside."
"I don't expect to see a bunch of other retailers closing on Black Friday," REI CEO Jerry Stritzke told CBS This Morning. However, "the attention creates the platform for talking about being outside," added Stritzke, which goes along with REI's brand.
On Black Friday, REI.com will show a black takeover screen that encourages customers to #OptOutside.
"It's a bold stand they are taking, but they probably know their customers pretty well," said Bill Martin, founder of ShopperTrak, a provider of analytics for the retail industry.
A substantial chunk of consumers won't be spending the day after Thanksgiving outdoors, other than going outside in order to go shopping, according to the 2015 holiday spending survey to be released on Thursday by American Express.
Nearly 45 percent of consumers plan to make purchases on Black Friday and 47 percent plan to shop on Cyber Monday, according to the American Express Spending and Saving Tracker. Consumers plan to spend $584, up 17 percent from 2014, on those two days, the survey found.
Retailers looking to get a leg up on holiday sales by staying open on Thanksgiving "really started to become an event about five years ago. When we take a look at historical sales, it's grown pretty well," said Martin, who added that retail sales (excluding food, gasoline and automobiles) totaled $3.2 billion on Thanksgiving Day last year. That's up from $52 million in 2009.
But while those sales have increased, they've contracted by roughly the same amount on Black Friday, said Martin. "What the data tell us is we've not gotten incremental traffic and sales, it's simply divided among a larger number of hours."
"This year I feel the pendulum is ready to swing in the opposite direction," said Martin. "There's a movement afoot through Facebook and Twitter about pledging not to shop" on the long Thanksgiving weekend.