Retail Employees, Shoppers Fight Black Thursday Openings

The other side of Black Friday shopping.

November 16, 2011, 7:48 AM

Nov. 16, 2011— -- While many Americans are eager to take advantage of Black Thursday and Black Friday sales, Target employee Anthony Hardwick would rather spend time with his family and started a petition to urge his employer and its competitors to stay closed on turkey day.

Hardwick's petition on has about 100,000 signatures requesting Target open its doors at 5 a.m. on the day after Thanksgiving rather than at midnight, which requires Hardwick, 29, and other employees to get to work at 11 p.m. Target announced it would stay open from midnight to 11 p.m. on Black Friday.

"A full holiday with family is not just for the elite of this nation -- all Americans should be able to break bread with loved ones and get a good night's rest on Thanksgiving!" he wrote in the petition. "Join me in calling for Target retail stores to push back their original opening time of 5am on Black Friday."

Molly Snyder, a spokeswoman for Target, said Hardwick has never been scheduled to work on Thanksgiving or Black Friday. In early November, he informed his managers that he was scheduled to work at his other job on Black Friday and indicated that he needed the day off from Target, she said.

"We honored that request," she said in an email to ABC News. "Target does our best to work around the schedules of all of our team members, making every effort to accommodate their requests."

She added that Target will offer holiday pay to all hourly "team members" who work on Thanksgiving Day.

"Black Friday is one of the busiest and most competitive shopping days of the year," she said. "We have heard from our guests that they want to shop Target following their Thanksgiving celebrations rather than only having the option of getting up in the middle of the night. By opening at midnight, we are making it easier than ever to deliver on our guests wants and needs."

Hardwick said it was "bologna" that retail employees could not work on Black Friday if they choose.

"No one in retail requests Black Friday off and gets it. It's a blacked out date," he said.

Hardwick said he did not request Black Friday off and if his employer called to request that he work that day, he would comply "and not let my team members down."

When asked why he was not required to work on Black Friday, Hardwick said, "I guess if you start a petition and raise a national media stink" he made clear his preference.

"I didn't start this for my own personal gain," he said. "I started it for my team members and retail employees around the country."

Other stores have one-upped the midnight opening time. Toys "R" Us will open at 9 p.m. on Thanksgiving night for the first time, the retailer announced on Monday. Walmart announced earlier this month its stores will open at 10 p.m.

Meanwhile, Best Buy, Gap, Old Navy, Banana Republic, Macy's, Kohl's and Target are embracing a midnight schedule.

Hardwick has been a parking attendant for three years in Omaha, Neb., initially working full-time. Now he works part-time at the retailer and also has a second part-time retail job.

The holiday is significant for Hardwick, who says he proposed to his now-fiancee during Thanksgiving last year.

He first decided to start a petition after reading about a petition started by 22-year-old Bank of America canceled the planned fee earlier this month.

With only one week to go until Thanksgiving, thousands have signed Hardwick's petition.

"Encouraging people to shop in the middle of the night is bizarre," wrote one petitioner who identified himself as Scottie Brookie. "And forcing employees to be there to help them, when they could be home with their families, is insensitive and cruel."

Hardwick is not the only person leading campaigns against retailers with early Black Friday openings. Benjamin Joffe-Walt, spokesman, said 30 similar petitions were launched against companies, including one trying to push back Best Buy's midnight opening.

Competitiveness in the retail sector intensifies every holiday season as holiday activity provides about 20 percent of retailers' annual sales every year. However, some retailers are not jumping on the band wagon.

J.C. Penney will remain closed Thanksgiving Day.

"We wanted to give our associates Thanksgiving Day to spend with their families," Bill Gentner, senior vice president for marketing at J.C. Penney, told the New York Times.

Because of an anemic economy, many retailers are trying to lure customers as analysts predict an average holiday shopping season. According to the National Retail Federal, retail sales for 2011 are expected to increase 2.8 percent to $465.6 billion.

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