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EDITORIAL

A holiday blessing from corporate America

A retail Thanksgiving break brought on by the pandemic has become standard operating procedure. That’s good for employees and consumers.

A sign at the entrance to a Target in Clifton, New Jersey, on Nov. 22 announces the store will be closed on Thanksgiving. Target will no longer open its stores on Thanksgiving Day, making permanent a shift to the unofficial start of the holiday season that was suspended during the pandemic.
A sign at the entrance to a Target in Clifton, New Jersey, on Nov. 22 announces the store will be closed on Thanksgiving. Target will no longer open its stores on Thanksgiving Day, making permanent a shift to the unofficial start of the holiday season that was suspended during the pandemic.Ted Shaffrey/Associated Press

This Thanksgiving, Americans ought to give thanks for Target and Walmart and Best Buy — and not because of the handbags and holiday discounts on Roombas.

Something like the opposite, in fact.

We should be thankful that Big Retail is (mostly) taking Thanksgiving off, closing its stores — if not its Web portals — and giving workers and customers a small break from the consumerist crush.

That such a thing would warrant praise says something troubling about how much we’ve been crushed by consumerism.

But this is Thanksgiving. So let’s be thankful.

About a decade ago, the big box stores decided to get a head start on the Black Friday bonanza, opening a day earlier and inviting shoppers to get cooking after their turkey feasts. (Though not in Massachusetts, where our far-sighted puritanical blue laws forbid many, but not all, retailers from opening on Thanksgiving Day.)

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There was a reasonable business case for the move; the retailers wanted to stay competitive with Amazon and other online retailers. But they took some knocks for requiring thousands of people to work on the holiday. And last year, the pandemic forced a change in plans.

To limit crowds and contagion in stores, the retailers elongated the holiday sale season — starting as early as October — and closed their doors on Thanksgiving.

And consumers responded well. Last year, holiday sales in November and December rose 8.2 percent over the previous year, according to the National Retail Federation. And the group expects record-breaking growth of 8.5 to 10.5 percent growth this year, to between $843.4 billion and $859 billion.

“What started as a temporary measure driven by the pandemic is now our new standard,” wrote Target chief executive Brian Cornell, announcing the Thanksgiving break, “one that recognizes our ability to deliver on our guests’ holiday wishes both within and well beyond store hours.”

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Dacona Smith, executive vice president and chief operations officer for Walmart US, framed his company’s closure as a thank you to employees who had persevered during the pandemic. “We hope everyone will take the opportunity to be with their loved ones during what’s always a special time,” he said in a statement.

Yes, the decision to close for Thanksgiving was eased by the new holiday sales strategy retailers stumbled into during the pandemic. And it was no doubt motivated, at least in part, by public relations concerns.

But the big box stores would surely wring a bit more profit out of the holiday season if they kept the doors open. And they’re choosing not to. Cornell, the Target chief, says the decision will stick.

“You don’t have to wonder whether this is the last Thanksgiving you’ll spend with family and friends for a while,” he wrote in his note to employees, “because Thanksgiving store hours are one thing we won’t ‘get back to’ when the pandemic finally subsides.”

Let’s hope the rest of the retail sector follows suit. That would be good for workers who get a holiday — and good for the rest of us.

When a bit of the turkey and stuffing falls on the floor this year, get out the broom. The Roomba can wait.


Editorials represent the views of the Boston Globe Editorial Board. Follow us on Twitter at @GlobeOpinion.