Should retailers give workers Labor Day off?

Discussion
Photo: RetailWire
Aug 26, 2021

Labor Day is the USA’s version of a holiday meant to recognize the American worker, but for many working in retail that still does not mean getting a day off.

A list of 25 stores open on Labor Day 2021 from Reader’s Digest shows that many of the biggest names in retail will be operating as usual on the holiday this year. Target, Walmart, CVS, Macy’s, Dollar General and Home Depot are among the retailers that will have all or most stores open regular hours. The only major retailer listed as being closed completely on Labor Day is Costco.

Giving employees the day off on big federal holidays has become more common in recent years, in particular, Thanksgiving, due to the holiday’s family focus.

Earlier in the 2010s, more stores began staying open on Thanksgiving as the Black Friday shopping holiday crept earlier into the season. Leading up to the novel coronavirus pandemic, however, the trend was reversing.

In 2020 — possibly due in part to predicted COVID-19-induced drop-offs in foot traffic — Best Buy, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Kohl’s and J.C. Penney, all who typically remain open for Thanksgiving, closed on the holiday. This year Walmart and Target have already announced that, for the second year in a row, they will remain closed on the holiday.

Like Thanksgiving 2020, Labor Day this may offer lower profitability thanks to the Delta variant. According to a study by Numerator, enthusiasm for Labor Day shopping and celebration dropped from 42 percent in June to 27 percent in August.

An added day off may not be a win for all, though, as it can be hard on hourly and temporary workers. There is no federal requirement in the U.S. that employers pay employees for federal holidays, sick leave or vacation, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.  The U.S. is virtually the only developed nation without federally-mandated days off, according to USA Today.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Does the Delta variant and its impact on Labor Day parties justify retailers to close more so than in non-pandemic years? Do you see more stores closing on Labor Day as retailers increase their focus on employee relations and workplace issues?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"Delta, coupled with 2021’s war for talent, makes closing stores on Labor Day a timely differentiator."
"Workers working on Labor Day: I guess you would call that irony."
"Let’s be honest. Only the retailers who expect poor sales on Labor Day will be closed. The rest will stay open. This is capitalism!"

Join the Discussion!

17 Comments on "Should retailers give workers Labor Day off?"


Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Mark Ryski
BrainTrust

While the pressure to allow stores to close on holidays like Labor Day may gain some attention, and particularly in the face of the Delta variant, the fact is, shoppers also like to shop on holidays – these are important opportunities for the retailers. Ultimately retailers need to decide how to best manage holidays and store operating days, but I don’t think most retailers can afford to close their stores for Labor Day.

Christine Russo
BrainTrust

I think you survey your employees in advance for sentiment and intent. Some people will want the hours.

Bob Phibbs
BrainTrust

Retailers are already stretched thin. Why on earth would they close on an important shopping day that traditionally kicks off holiday shopping for many? Closing on Labor Day isn’t about employee relations. If you want to fix employee relationships and issues, do something tangible like hire better, train better, reward better, and do a better job with customers.

Jenn McMillen
BrainTrust

Let’s be honest. Only the retailers who expect poor sales on Labor Day will be closed. The rest will stay open. This is capitalism!

Bob Amster
BrainTrust

The U.S. has marched to the beat of its own isolationist drum for a long time. Labor Day in most of the rest of the world is May 1st, period. Everything shuts down. It does not follow that people should get paid for the day off. It just means that it is a day off that recognizes the working class.

Lee Peterson
BrainTrust

Workers working on Labor Day: I guess you would call that irony. Reminds me a little of the Thanksgiving conversation, which thankfully has evolved to letting associates join in on the family fun. With e-commerce as powerful a shopping tool as it has become, giving Labor Day off to your laborers sure makes more sense now. Thirty years ago, you can understand why you wanted your spaces open and the revenue pouring in — but now? It’s pouring in 24/7. Here’s an idea: if stores are kept open, perhaps the home office execs should be required to be in stores too? That would put a different perspective on things.

Bob Amster
BrainTrust

I know it’s late in the day but that is the biggest irony of them all. All executives should be required to work in the stores some number of days per year. If retailers are going to stay open on these holidays, the executives should suffer along with the store associates and managers, in the trenches. I like your thinking.

DeAnn Campbell
BrainTrust

Giving retail workers time off to enjoy a public holiday would be lovely, but that ship has sailed. Over the years consumers have come to expect retail to be available to them seven days of the week, including most holidays, and it would be very hard to reset that expectation. And with our economy still in uncertainty as we continue to deal with pandemic variants, most retailers aren’t in a position to risk loss of sales.

Dave Bruno
BrainTrust

This is a tough dilemma. It certainly would be an appropriate and welcome gesture to give workers Labor Day off, especially this year as the pandemic is surging and stress on workers and their families is high. However if workers lose shifts because it isn’t a paid holiday, that creates a different type of stress. It would be a lot to ask for retailers to close their stores and offer a paid holiday, but in a hyper-competitive labor market, it might not be a bad investment to surprise and delight their associates and build goodwill that could translate to referrals for future hires.

Neil Saunders
BrainTrust

No, I don’t think retailers should close on Labor Day. It is not a major family holiday and workers in many other sectors do not get the day off. Many of those consumers who do have the day off like to shop, which is why retailers remain open. None of this is to suggest that retail employees are not worthy of time off – they are – and retailers do need to try and be more flexible with general scheduling.

Paula Rosenblum
BrainTrust

I don’t think the stores should close but I do think those who choose to work on that day should be paid overtime. And yes, as Christine said, survey employees first.

By the way, COVID-19 was a great excuse to close on a day that was never, ever, ever going to add to retailers’ bottom line, or even top line, for that matter. Thanksgiving Day openings were never a good idea.

Lisa Goller
BrainTrust

Even with high vaccination rates, the Delta variant represents a growing retail risk.

Delta, coupled with 2021’s war for talent, makes closing stores on Labor Day a timely differentiator. This decision could symbolize that retailers prioritize the well-being of workers and customers.

However I don’t think most retailers currently view Delta as a big enough threat to outweigh the benefits of serving shoppers who are returning to school and the office.

Ryan Mathews
BrainTrust
Labor Day in America isn’t what say May Day is in other countries. It was originally conceived more as a political day off, demonstrating the power of organized labor against Corporate America. But labor isn’t as organized as it once was and most Americans – particularly those under 50 – think of Labor Day as a day when you can get big savings on white goods, furniture, and other retail lines. If the Delta variant justifies shutting stores down on any day – including Labor Day – wouldn’t it make sense to return to where we were a year ago? No matter how you answer that question, it’s clear there’s nothing that special about Labor Day when it comes to the decision to close stores. I just returned from a trip to Rhode Island where chains like Starbucks had hours and rules of operation that changed on a daily, and sometimes hourly, basis depending on labor availability. I think that’s the key. If labor is available we will see laborers laboring on Labor Day. If… Read more »
Jeff Sward
BrainTrust

In a way, the pandemic has heightened the importance of recognizing the American worker 365 days of the year. So it’s not so much about having that day off as it is about the respect and support — and pay — that American workers deserve every day of the year. Let’s give everybody a day off Thanksgiving and Christmas (yes, I know it can’t actually be everybody), and maybe even on the 4th of July. A couple days over the course of the year where most people can relax, enjoy friends and family and celebrate our way of life. But then there is an economy to manage and businesses to run. Businesses that offer their employees balance over the course of the year don’t have to apologize for asking people to work on some of the holidays.

Steve Montgomery
BrainTrust

I don’t foresee retailers closing on Labor Day. However I do believe that there are alternatives that make being open more palatable to the employees who work that day. Two that I think would rise to the top of employees’ wish list are paying overtime or offering them a day of their choosing off.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest

I’m ambivalent on closing; I’m much firmer on closing because of Delta: I don’t see any logic in it.
As far as it becoming more common: having more holidays is certainly among the benefits that can be offered, but I don’t know that this one will be seen as particularly important (historical association notwithstanding).

Kai Clarke
BrainTrust

No. Labor Day is not a key retail holiday for closing their doors. It is a day that retailers try to leverage as one of their many opportunities to discount and better market their products. It is not (and should not be), anything more.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"Delta, coupled with 2021’s war for talent, makes closing stores on Labor Day a timely differentiator."
"Workers working on Labor Day: I guess you would call that irony."
"Let’s be honest. Only the retailers who expect poor sales on Labor Day will be closed. The rest will stay open. This is capitalism!"

Take Our Instant Poll

Do you agree that retail employees should get paid days off for federal holidays like Labor Day?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...