Walmart's Thanksgiving Day Opening May Add Nothing to Its Bottom Line

Walmart Black Friday
Black Friday is bleeding into Thanksgiving Thursday, and not everybody is happy about the earlier start to the holiday shopping season.

Walmart (WMT) will begin offering its "doorbuster" Black Friday deals as early as 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving, a move that is forcing other retailers to follow suit.

Like most retailers, Walmart used to wait until early Friday morning to crack open its doors for the opening salvo of the Christmas shopping season, but after a Long Island employee got trampled to death in 2008, the chain has been aiming for earlier openings to help spread out the crowd.

That may be good news for shoppers, but not for the employees that will have to cut their Thanksgiving festivities short to stock the stores and man the registers.

Keeping up with Jones Inc.

As the world's largest retailer, Walmart sets the tone for the rest of the market.

Shortly after Walmart announced that it would be kicking off Black Friday events as early as 8 p.m. Thursday -- two hours earlier than last year's 10 p.m. launch -- Target (TGT) announced that it would be calling in its employees for a 9 p.m. opening.

They're not alone. Here are when some of the major retailers will be opening, according to a recent CNBC report.
  • Toys R Us, Walmart, and Sears (SHLD): 8 p.m.
  • Target: 9 p.m.
  • Kohl's (KSS), Macy's (M), The Sports Authority: Midnight
Protestors -- including some Walmart employees -- are planning on going on strike on Black Friday. As the country's largest retailer, Walmart is a popular target for activist groups incensed at the company's cost-prudent labor practices. They'll probably have a field day with the earlier openings.

New Time, Same Numbers?

Some will argue that opening on Thursday evening isn't going to make a material difference.

Kmart (now owned by Sears Holdings) has been opening during the day on Thanksgiving for more than 20 years, and the discount department store remains a perpetual disappointment.
What you plan to do after Thanksgiving dinner?
Watch football.1 (20.0%)
I plan head to the stores to shop the early sales.1 (20.0%)
Relax or Sleep.1 (20.0%)
We have a tradition to play football/ or other family games.1 (20.0%)
I am going to shop online from the comforts of my home.1 (20.0%)

However, the National Retail Federation reports that nearly 25% of Black Friday shoppers hit the stores by midnight on Thursday last year.

Clearly the customer demand is there for early bargains. Employees won't necessarily see it the same way, but many chains are offering higher overtime wages for those who volunteer to come in on the Thanksgiving holiday.

Until Walmart blinks, smaller retailers will have no choice but to play along.

Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz does not own shares in any of the stocks in this article.

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