Target says all employees can shop Black Friday deals from home, closing all stores on Thanksgiving

Target says it’s a family-oriented business and won’t allow its employees to shop for deals on the holiday from home.

The Minneapolis-based retailer said employees will be able to log onto its website to check Black Friday prices, though. And it encourages shoppers to have family or friends come by and hang out with them.

The company is closing all of its stores nationwide on Thanksgiving Day to celebrate with its team members instead. Target Stores in the U.S. also will be closed on Black Friday, and the company expects to take on average about 7,000 people per shift at its seven distribution centers across the country.

The close-knit, and sometimes tightly-knit, staff at Target are eager to clear out the last of the fall merchandise, clear space for holiday sections and make way for the store’s next big project: All of its stores will be remodeled in the spring.

“People are ready to go,” said Sophie Blake, a senior store executive at Target, who is overseeing the remodeling.

Target is throwing parties for its team on Thanksgiving Day to bring them together for a family-like atmosphere. Team members are also invited to use their own time to prepare for the transition to Black Friday. “A lot of them are going through their first Black Friday on Thanksgiving, but we’re there to support them,” said Blake.

Target CEO Brian Cornell called the Thanksgiving move an important investment and a way to “redefine the arrival of Black Friday” in the mind of its guests. About a quarter of its 3,800 U.S. stores will have staffing options, such as signing up for a flexible work schedule or working one of its open shifts. Some stores, such as those located in areas with a high concentration of military personnel, will be open earlier on Thanksgiving Day to give military families the opportunity to shop there with their loved ones.

Holiday shopping typically starts about a week earlier each year. Stores have been trying to be as competitive as possible to capture shoppers, who have plenty of options online. Walmart has been doing major Black Friday events throughout the month, while Macy’s and Kohl’s have typically opened a day earlier in November than last year.

Target said the decision to close the stores in the U.S. and Canada is based on “wisdom derived from years of ensuring our teams are well-rested, energized and ready to serve our guests.” The company also noted that it had more options to close its stores during the same year, when there was no natural closure day because of schools being out or because there are annual winter holidays like Presidents Day and Veterans Day. It also had an easier time determining whether employees could work a customer-facing shift or take some time off.

The announcement puts Target ahead of several major retailers that have said they will be open on Thanksgiving. Best Buy and Walmart said they would not offer Black Friday deals on the holiday. Toys R Us announced that it would open at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving but would close all day Friday. The iconic toy chain said that its agreement with landlords will allow it to close its stores at 11 p.m. on Thanksgiving and reopen at 7 a.m. on Friday.

Other retailers, such as Toys R Us and Sears, have held off on having Black Friday events in recent years. Instead, they ran more targeted, limited sales events through October. Target said it may consider modifying its plans in the future based on the competitive dynamics.

Diane Wehrle, a professor of marketing at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, said that over the years, Target has been seen as a company that “almost gives up on Thanksgiving,” with Cornell saying last year he preferred the flexibility to “find different ways to do the right thing” during the Thanksgiving holiday.

She said the company’s decision “has confirmed suspicions.”

“I’m not sure what the point was,” Wehrle said. “There will be a very short shelf life of the Thanksgiving ‘storewide’ sale. Then, if there are good deals, customers will quickly lose interest. It’s very hard to stay competitive over a long period of time.”

Also the chain has been investing more in new online technology to support its business and to further target e-commerce customers.

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