A traditional Thanksgiving is off the table for Macy's, which this week announced it will open at 8 p.m. Thanksgiving evening to usher in frenzied Black Friday shoppers.
It's the first time the 155-year-old retailer will open its doors on Thanksgiving. Last year, Macy's stores opened at midnight, though other retailers encroached on the holiday with store openings at 8 and 9 p.m.
Still, Macy's announcement was a bit surprising. If any retailer was going to keep Turkey Day sacred, it was Macy's — which founded the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in 1924. Thanksgiving was anchored to the fourth Thursday in November thanks to the company that would become Macy's to, ironically, add days to the critical holiday shopping season.
A little background: Macy's started as R.H. Macy & Co. in New York City in 1858. It was acquired by Federated Department Stores Inc. in 1994, one of many stores gobbled up by the retail powerhouse. Federated was renamed Macy's in 2007.
But in the years after the Great Depression and World War II, Federated's founder Fred Lazarus had an idea. In 1939, Thanksgiving fell on the last day of November, causing fewer shopping days between the holiday and Christmas. He asked then President Franklin D. Roosevelt if Thanksgiving could be held on the fourth Thursday of November instead of the last Thursday in November. Within two years, it became law.
Fast forward to today, when Macy's 800 or so stores are planning to open at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving, selling $10 coffee makers, blenders and toasters and $40 cashmere sweaters. Some say Macy's couldn't resist in this era of fierce competition among retailers. Revenue is down and consumers are already planning to tighten the grip on their wallets.
But last year, Target was criticized for opening on Thanksgiving Day, a time retail workers — already arguably underpaid and overworked — used to count on to spend time with their families. Macy's is the first to announce its Black Friday plans, and who's to say whether Target, Walmart and the others will out-doorbust each other by pushing deals even earlier, devouring Thanksgiving in the spending frenzy?