Target Closing Stores on Thanksgiving Permanently, Extending Practice Started Amid COVID

Target announced Monday that it will permanently keep its stores closed on Thanksgiving Day, extending a practice adopted during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Associated Press reported.

The move comes after many retailers saw strong sales last year after being forced to rethink the traditional kickoff to the holiday shopping season by offering extended sale events beginning as early as October.

The adjusted holiday shopping format was originally meant to limit crowds in stores that could worsen the virus' spread, AP reported. But American shoppers seemed to favor the shift to take advantage of sales and offers over a longer time period, rather than the usual frenzy in the first few days after Thanksgiving.

U.S. holiday sales between November and December last year rose 8.2 percent in 2020 from the year before, according to data from the National Retail Foundation, the largest retail trade group in the country. The group estimates that holiday sales in 2021 could be even higher, rising between 8.5 percent and 10.5 percent, according to AP.

"What started as a temporary measure driven by the pandemic is now our new standard—one that recognizes our ability to deliver on our guests' holiday wishes both within and well beyond store hours," Target CEO Brian Cornell wrote in a note to employees.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Target Closing Stores on Thanksgiving
Target said having its stores closed on Thanksgiving will be the new normal, permanently ending a tradition that it embraced for years. The move, announced on November 22, 2021, comes as the Minneapolis-based discounter and other retailers, including Walmart and Macy's, will be closed for the second Thanksgiving in a row. Above, a Target store in Philadelphia on November 17, 2021. Matt Rourke/AP Photo

The new standard at Target, on top very healthy sales last year, could push other retailers to follow in its path.

Distribution and call centers will have some staff on Thanksgiving, Target said Monday, but stores will remain closed.

Target began opening its stores on Thanksgiving a decade ago, joining other retailers in kicking off Black Friday sales a day early and creating a holiday rush after the turkey feast. Many did so to compete with and other rising online threats.

But the shift seemed to merely cannibalize Black Friday sales. And big retailers suffered some blowback from critics who said thousands of people were forced to work, rather than being with family during the holiday.

Some stores and malls like the Mall of America in Minnesota, ended the practice and remained closed on Thanksgiving. Some, like Costco and Nordstrom, never opened their doors during the holiday, saying they wanted to respect the holiday.

Thanksgiving had historically not been a big sales day overall, not one of the top 10, because stores usually opened their doors around 5 p.m. However, it's been a big online sales day.

Last year, the holiday trailed only Cyber Monday and Black Friday in online sales, according to the Adobe Digital Economy Index.

Target CEO Brian Cornell
Target announced Monday that it will permanently keep its stores closed on Thanksgiving Day, extending a practice adopted by the retail corporation during the COVID-19 pandemic. Above, Brian Cornell, board chairman and CEO of Target, speaks at IGNITION: Future of Media at Time Warner Center on November 30, 2017, in New York City. Monica Schipper/Getty Images