• Retail Dive

Walmart follows Target in closing stores on Thanksgiving Day

Published June 7, 2021

Dive Brief:

  • Walmart announced that it is closing stores on Thanksgiving Day for the second year in a row, following Target's decision to do the same earlier this year.

  • The Bentonville, Arkansas-based retailer will maintain regular hours on Nov. 24, and details on its Nov. 26 (Black Friday) store hours will be announced at a later date, Walmart said in a release Friday.

  • Target is closing its brick-and-mortar locations on Thanksgiving Day, too. The company said in January that it intends to reinvent its approach to Black Friday.

Dive Insight:

The pandemic has permanently impacted certain aspects of the retail industry, even the way retailers view the well-being of their employees.

The decision is part of Walmart's overall effort to keep an eye on its associates' mental health and well-being throughout the pandemic. The company said it gave employees expanded access to no-cost counseling. Walmart is also extending its COVID emergency leave policy until Sept. 30.

"Closing our stores on Thanksgiving Day is one way we're saying 'thank you' to our teams for their dedication and hard work this year. We hope everyone will take the opportunity to be with their loved ones during what's always a special time," Dacona Smith, executive vice president and chief operating officer for Walmart U.S., said in a statement.

Pre-pandemic, in 2019, closing on one of the busiest days of the shopping season was not on the table at Walmart. However, associates could have paid time off on Thanksgiving Day or the option to cash out their time.

Similarly, Target introduced programs over the past year to address the health and well-being of its team members, including investing nearly $1 billion more than the year prior in increased wages and free virtual healthcare visits for team members.

The day after Thanksgiving, more commonly known as Black Friday, consumers would typically head to stores to take advantage of deals. But the events in 2020 showed a 52% drop in store traffic, while online sales hit new records, according to Adobe Analytics.

As a result of the pandemic last year, retailers adjusted their Black Friday strategy to prevent overcrowding. Best Buy, for instance, introduced deals earlier in November last year. Lowe's also announced a holiday sales event ahead of Halloween in 2020.

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