It is a different year. Walmart is closing on Thanksgiving.

Source: Walmart
Jul 22, 2020
George Anderson

The list of retailers opening stores on Thanksgiving Day has been growing for years and 2020 may prove no different than in the past. It will, however, have one notable exception as Walmart has announced that it will close its namesake and Sam’s Club stores on that day.

In a memo to associates shared with RetailWire, Walmart U.S. president and CEO John Furmer wrote that the company has been thinking of ways it can support its associates who have been “working at an incredible pace” and setting “an amazing example for others” during a time of “unprecedented challenges” for the country.

Acknowledging that the best ideas come from the company’s associates, Mr. Furmer identified a recommendation from Kevin Carlyle, the people lead at a Walmart in Round Rock, TX, that the chain close for Thanksgiving so associates can spend the day with those they love.

Walmart’s decision to close its stores on Thanksgiving for the first time going back to the 1980’s wasn’t the only news it had for frontline associates yesterday. The retailer announced that it will follow special cash bonuses handed out in April and June with another one next month.

Full-time hourly associates and drivers will receive $300 and part-time and temporary workers will get $150. Frontline assistant, store and facility managers will also get a bonus for their dedicated work during the first half of the year. With the August payment, Walmart will have directed $1.1 in special bonuses to workers this year.

  • Walmart Invests $428 Million More in Associates with Another Special Bonus; Totaling $1.1 Billion in Special Bonuses So Far This Year – Walmart

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: How likely are other large retailers that have opened on Thanksgiving Day in past years to follow Walmart’s lead and close in 2020? What other ways can Walmart and other retailers show appreciation for frontline workers at this point in time?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
"Good for Walmart. It’s been a rough year and we all have taken a hard look at what matters most to us."
"We will all survive one less day of shopping. Maybe this will be a step on the road to making Black Friday more of a thing."
"The goodwill and care Walmart and other major retailers show their store associates will go a long way to help drive customer loyalty."

Join the Discussion!

31 Comments on "It is a different year. Walmart is closing on Thanksgiving."

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Neil Saunders

Under present conditions, the idea of any retailer driving crowds of people into their store is a non-starter. Instead, retailers want to spread out shopping traffic across a longer period of time so that it is easier to manage social distancing. This also makes sense from a channel shift point of view as we know consumers are very comfortable shopping online for bargains from the comfort of their own homes.

Closing on Thanksgiving is also a trend that has been growing as more retailers recognize the importance of giving staff a day to spend with their families and friends. That’s no bad thing, especially during these difficult times.

Richard Hernandez

We are going back to what holidays are all about — family. I believe more companies will follow Walmart’s lead and start holiday sales on Friday. Additionally, the bonus is a nice touch for the front-line employees that have risked their lives to come to work every day during the pandemic. Good for Walmart for listening to their associates.

Dick Seesel

Walmart may be the first to announce closing on Thanksgiving, but it won’t be the last. It’s a gesture toward its store associates who have faced extraordinary challenges this year, and any store not following suit will look like the Grinch.

From an economic standpoint, I’ve long argued that early openings on Black Friday — now stretching to Thanksgiving itself — have drained the urgency out of the event. This won’t cause a revival of Friday morning “doorbuster” business, if shoppers are still avoiding physical stores and shopping online, but the earned goodwill may prove priceless.

Paula Rosenblum

My gosh. Are pigs flying?

I applaud this move. The Thanksgiving Day openings were a terrible idea from the jump and if this turns out to be the one good thing to come out of this era, so be it.

The whole Thanksgiving/Black Friday doorbuster madness was bad for families, profits and just about everything else I can think of. At least this pendulum has swung!

Ben Ball

While it may be in reaction to COVID-19, this is a positive move for retailers, associates and shoppers. Hopefully many retailers will follow suit and America will actually have a Thanksgiving (or a “Friendsgiving” as my far-flung family has started) where we spend it together thanking whomever it is we choose to “thank” for our blessings. Better yet, perhaps these retailers could support community activities that share those blessings with others less fortunate. It has become the most rewarding part of my family’s tradition.

Larry Negrich

It’s been a fatiguing and anxiety-filled year for all retail staff. It’s great that Walmart is embracing suggestions from its team. Letting employees spend time with their families on Thanksgiving will go a long way in this environment.

Georganne Bender

Good for Walmart! Times are different now. Family is important, holidays are important, and no one needs to shop on Thanksgiving. There’s a benefit here, too: Staying closed on Thanksgiving makes Black Friday more important.

I remember when Thanksgiving night was used to create a shopping plan of attack for the next day. We’d look at ads online and in the newspapers, lining up where to go and when. Black Friday may be different this year — and the jury’s out as to what that means — but the holidays aren’t going anywhere and we still need to shop for gifts. I predict Black Friday will still be a big deal.

Stephen Rector

Great move by Walmart — and most retailers will follow their lead by not being open on Thanksgiving Day this year. I could see a company like Sears/Kmart staying open, but I feel like the remaining retailers with a large brick and mortar presence will follow suit. It never felt right that retailers were making employees be away from their family on Thanksgiving to begin with, in my opinion, so hope this isn’t a one-time deal.

Jeff Sward

This is brave, level-headed, clear thinking action. It’s a tilt of the earth’s axis stuff. It’s also a very pragmatic recognition that there is no way that the shopping density of that day could be handled safely. So let’s take a deep breath, give everybody a much needed day off, and get on with the planning for how to handle an extended holiday shopping season. The season now starts with Prime Day, then Halloween, then Singles Day (11/11). Thank you Black Friday. We had some great times together.

Ian Percy

It IS “a tilt of the earth’s axis stuff” Jeff. This is a signal of much greater potence than just a nice gesture. Well said.

Ricardo Belmar
Ricardo Belmar
Retail Transformation Thought Leader
8 months 24 days ago
Walmart is on a streak of wise, amazing decisions that show how they care about their employees and customers. This is yet another example. The Black Friday/Thanksgiving madness pendulum is finally swinging back in the other direction — back to promoting family, safety, and frankly, sanity. With 2020 proving to be the year of online shopping, this is a sign that expectations for this year’s holiday shopping season will be different than past years. Doorbuster sales that encourage massive crowds at the entrance to a Walmart simply won’t work this year, and Walmart is taking a double-win here by closing on Thanksgiving (and therefore automatically encouraging online sales) and rewarding store associates with a well-earned break to spend more time with their families. Contrast this with what we hear and see (or don’t) from Amazon. Thanksgiving isn’t supposed to be about wild shopping trips. It’s for families to spend time together — thank you to Walmart for recognizing that this year. I expect many other retailers will follow their lead this holiday season as shoppers… Read more »
Richard J. George, Ph.D.

A good move by Walmart as another way to recognize and honor these essential employees. I anticipate other retailers will follow. The last few years have seen Black Friday sized crowds in stores on Thanksgiving. COVID-19 concerns will be mitigated on that day. In addition, COVID-19 has pushed customers to online shopping, which is what many customers may be doing on Turkey Day.

Dave Bruno

The decision to close on Thanksgiving is just another in a long line of good decisions Walmart has made lately — as is the second round of bonuses. I suspect others will follow suit with Thanksgiving news shortly, and as an industry, we are all better for it.

Liz Adamson

Good for Walmart. It’s been a rough year and we all have taken a hard look at what matters most to us. Allowing their retail associates, who have in many ways been on the front lines of this pandemic, to spend the holiday with their family instead of battling hordes of bargain hunting shoppers is the right move. Other retailers would do well to follow suit and I sincerely hope it is the beginning of a new trend.

Lisa Goller

Health, safety and family are this year’s top values, as Walmart’s move reflects. That’s why I expect more retailers will also close their physical stores on Thanksgiving.

Empathy and appreciation play key roles in Walmart’s 2020 HR strategy. Symbolically giving workers time off on Thanksgiving and a third round of bonuses set Walmart apart, at least for the moment.

Notably, Target and Amazon now pay a higher minimum wage all year round. Matching that labor cost conflicts with Walmart’s low-cost leadership, especially as the retail giant simultaneously invests in innovation to stay relevant and competitive.

In lieu of higher wages, Walmart could show its generosity through health benefits for part-time workers, more paid time off and bigger staff discounts.

Dr. Stephen Needel

I’m a traditionalist — for whatever their motivation, nobody should have to work on Thanksgiving, so good for them. Hopefully more join in. We will all survive one less day of shopping. Maybe this will be a step on the road to making Black Friday more of a thing.

Jason Goldberg

I love this move. The entire ecosystem is under a lot of stress right now, and associates in particular have a lot of emotional stress on their shoulders. They deserve to be home on Thanksgiving. It’s a particularly easy year to make this decision as associates interests are in vogue and comparative sales vs last year are going to be be less relevant anyway, but I still imagine it was a tough decision to make. Walmart is going to give cover to a lot of other retailers to follow suite. Given everything going in the world, we could all be a little nicer to each other this holiday season.

Phil Rubin
8 months 24 days ago

This isn’t surprising given Walmart’s leadership and commitment to safety, security and the well-being of its team members. As for other retailers, given how many aren’t making money right now, and given the uncertainty around where we (in the US) will be with the pandemic, it’s a pretty easy decision. And good for the continued shift to e-commerce.

Now if only Zoom will shut down for businesses then it will really be a holiday!

Tony Orlando

It’s about time, and for the rest of the mega stores, maybe they should consider waiting until Friday morning to start Black Friday — not Thursday at 6 p.m. — to get a leg up on the competition.

Harley Feldman

Other retailers will follow Walmart’s lead, some for the same reason as Walmart: to give their employees a rest and time with families. Other retailers may close for Thanksgiving as their online presence allows people to shop without going to physical stores. Walmart closing for Thanksgiving gives other retailers the excuse to close also.

Walmart has been giving cash bonuses, but another appreciation reward would be to give employees some paid time off.

Gene Detroyer

Gee, could corporate America actually start adapting values over the dollar?

I will add kudos as my colleagues have.

I wonder, however, if COVID-19 has rocked some brains. We have seen corporate America step up on the value side of support for workers, BLM, LGBTQ, pulling advertising from FB and FOX and now basic family values over the almighty dollar.

There is hope yet!

Ian Percy

I hope my submission ends up next to yours Gene. It’s all about “stepping up.”

Bob Amster

There is clearly a new regime at Walmart and a markedly progressive, yet realistic culture driven from the top down. Reminds me of “… a kinder, gentler America…” And it comes none too soon for the masses. One more holiday closed so families can be together and to recharge one’s batteries in what has been a hectic, stressful time for most, can only be a good thing and it should not make any difference to the bottom line. Kudos to Walmart and to a number of other retailers that are leading by good example. Nobody is going to eat their lunch because they chose to follow a more sensitive path. This moves can strengthens the bonds of loyalty.

Andrew Blatherwick

Walmart always seems to be one step ahead of the competition and leads the pack. This is a very clever move. In one statement they said “we listen to our staff and we are a great place to work.” As more and more people come to realize that retail staff are the key to a great performance, happy customers and great customer service, Walmart is putting itself up there as the retailer of choice to work for. They may get away with lots of not so good things, but this effort will be remembered when people are looking at where to work.

Getting and retaining good staff in retail has never been easy, too often in the past they have been seen as cannon fodder by the retail owners, not valued and expect zero loyalty. Well you reap what you sow and people are fast realizing that treating retail staff properly can pay back hugely. Congratulations Walmart, first is always best and whilst other will follow, you will be the one remembered for this action.

Ian Percy
A major retailer showing true material appreciation for their employees is a good thing. Full stop. But I think this is a bigger issue than that. By far most of retail’s problems are self-inflicted wounds, i.e. immediate gratification 24/7, race to the bottom, etc. In much the same way, those “entitlements” can be reversed in favor of the entitlements of retail and its employees. The secret is “Just do it!” Close on Thanksgiving or whatever. People will whine and groan and start petitions and goodness knows what. Do what Walmart is doing by giving people a lot of notice, but just do it. The whining will die down and customer will get used to it. And soon you get your retail life back. I keep thinking back to my homeland Canada and how it makes major social change. Can you imagine the USA getting a new flag, turning $1 and $2 bills into coins and eliminating pennies altogether or … the big one, writing a new constitution? I remember Prime Minister (for 15 years) Pierre… Read more »