Retailers push Black Friday into Thanksgiving holiday

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In response to increased competition from online retailers, a growing number of brick-and-mortar stores, including Target, Sears and Walmart have announced that they will begin Black Friday sales on the Thursday of Thanksgiving, with some stores opening as early as 8 p.m.

The move, according to one workplace authority, is likely to pay off for both retailers and job seekers. However, it brings the risk of consumer backlash.  “Retailers are under immense pressure to get the holiday shopping season off to a strong start.  It is the busiest time of the year for them and Black Friday is so named because it is the day when most retailers’ sales move ‘into the black’ for the year,” John A. Challenger, CEO of the Chicago-based outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc., said in a statement.

However, he added, “These retailers are opening themselves to a potential backlash from the decision to open on what many consider to be a day that it is best spent with family, reflecting on all that we are thankful for.  Not only is there the risk of creating disgruntled workers, who feel they have no choice but to accept the holiday hours in this economy, but in the wake of the worst recession since the Great Depression, some Americans have soured on the corporate excess and the profits-at-any-cost mentality that some say helped hasten the economic meltdown.”

So far, there are at least 40 online petitions on related to retailers starting Black Friday sales on Thanksgiving. One of the most signed petitions, started by a California Target employee who opposes the holiday opening, has more than 200,000 supporters.

Challenger said retailers should try to staff Thanksgiving Day openings primarily with employees who volunteer for the shift.  While some workers will relish the opportunity to earn time-and-a-half or double-time, others will want to stay home and could become disgruntled as the busiest shopping period of the year begins.

In its holiday hiring forecast, Challenger estimated that seasonal job gains were likely to be slightly better than a year ago, when retail employment increased by 660,200, according to non-seasonally adjusted data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  In September alone, Challenger tracked announced hiring plans that will add more than 400,000 temporary workers to retail payrolls, including 90,000 at Target; 50,000 at Walmart; and 14,000 at Best Buy.

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