NEW YORK -- Don't count on Thanksgiving reverting to its traditional status of feasting on turkey and giving thanks.
Macy's announced Monday it was staying committed to Thanksgiving Day shopping, saying it'll open an hour earlier this year. The move dampened hopes that other key stores will back away from the "Christmas Creep."
The retailer plans to open at 5 p.m. on Thanksgiving, with most Macy's stores closing at 2 a.m., and then reopening at 6 a.m. Friday. It cited "ongoing customer interest in shopping on Thanksgiving, both at Macy's and at many other retailers."
The department store chain has been open on Thanksgiving evening since 2013, but had remained open through the night.
In a statement emailed to The Associated Press, it said it surveyed store employees well in advance about their preferences.
"We are working diligently to staff Thanksgiving with associates who volunteer," Macy's said. "Doing so means that our employees are able to make their own decisions about how they contribute to our most important and busiest weekend of the year."
The Friday after Thanksgiving had long served as the kickoff to holiday shopping. But over the past few years, more stores have opened earlier and earlier on Thanksgiving itself to lure early shoppers and amid online competition. The move has been a controversial one, as many workers complained that stores were putting profits over workers' time with their families.
The trend had appeared to be reversing as several stores including Staples and consumer electronics chain hhgregg, as well as the Mall of America and mall operator CBL & Associates announced recently that they will be closed on Thanksgiving. They said they wanted to give back the day to employees. In reality, many of the stores also said it doesn't make good business sense as sales continue to be stretched out for the week - and the month.
But Macy's announcement shows that many major chains will probably stick with the Thanksgiving opening and may even open earlier than last year as they try to avoid being trumped by the competition. Macy's is under pressure to do well, after six straight quarters of declines for a key revenue measure. Target, Best Buy and J.C. Penney have not yet announced their Thanksgiving strategy.
J.C. Penney opened at 3 p.m. on Thanksgiving last year, three hours earlier than its department store rivals, a move that helped boost its business. Best Buy suffered over the Thanksgiving weekend in 2012 because it didn't open until midnight, while others opened earlier in the evening. The following three years, the nation's largest consumer electronics chain opened Thanksgiving evening.
CBL & Associates Properties Inc. said last week most of its 89 shopping centers will be closed on Thanksgiving. However, department stores, movie theaters, restaurants and retailers with exterior entrances have the option to open on Thanksgiving. When the Mall of America, based in Bloomington, Minnesota, announced its Thanksgiving strategy, it said some tenants may choose to be open. So it will have security and other key personnel on duty to ensure smooth operations.