Retailers are outdoing each other with early Thanksgiving Day openings, causing resentment among employees' families who can't celebrate the holiday together.
As usual, companies are hoping earlier promotions will boost holiday sales, led by Kmart, which will open at 6 a.m. on Thanksgiving. Meanwhile, a handful of online movements are petitioning stores and malls to stay closed. The most popular of these is a petition on Change.org led by a four-year Target veteran.
"I usually had to leave in the middle of my Thanksgiving dinner, but this year I won't be able to attend at all," wrote Justin Mills of Selah, Washington. His petition has more than 46,880 signatures.
Target will open at 6 p.m. Thanksgiving. Old Navy will open at 4 p.m., offering 50 percent off for 31 hours.
"Store hours have crept up and up over time, and Thanksgiving is just the latest 'brick to fall' in a movement towards greater and greater store hours and access," said Owen Shapiro, co-author of "Brand Shift: The Future of Brands and Marketing." Stores like Costco and BJ's say they will remain closed.
Two days after Macy’s announced it will open at 6 p.m., Kelly Kinsey, a retail manager in Miami, received a notice from the mall where she works.
“It said because Macy’s is open, we have to open. So more than 100 retailers in my mall are forced to open at 6 p.m. or face fines,” she said. “Because Macy’s is an anchor store, the malls follow suit.”
This will be the first in Kinsey’s 18-year retail career that she has to work on Thanksgiving. She started a petition to Macy's that has more than 34,400 signatures.
Shapiro said some countries limit hours by law. Sunday closings are still the rule in some states of Germany. But in upstate New York, one mall will reportedly fine tenant retailers that stay closed on Thanksgiving.
"This macro trend has been accelerated by introduction of online retailing that is always open, which has forced many of the retailers who make their lion's share of profits in the holidays -- like toy stores -- to push for longer and longer store hours," Shapiro said.
Online and offline experiences are blending even more this holiday season, said Christoph Stehmann, Pitney Bowes' president of e-commerce and shipping solutions.
Stehmann said his research shows consumers want choices.
"Retailers need to offer a mix of strategies to get consumers in their doorsteps and their websites," Stehmann said.