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By Erin Rode
December 15, 2015
Caption : Stores that remained open on Thanksgiving Day saw a decrease in in-store sales, with online shopping on the rise.     

Eleven major stores stayed open on Thanksgiving this year, following the belief that opening on Thanksgiving will boost holiday sales by bringing in shoppers before the start of Black Friday.

However, these stores may have remained open for naught, as sales at U.S. brick-and-mortar stores were on Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday were down from last year, with many shoppers moving to online bargain-hunting.

The total number of customers in stores on Thanksgiving Day remained flat compared to last year. Additionally, data from ShopperTrak revealed that Thanksgiving shopping only generated $1.8 billion, just a drop in the bucket compared to Black Friday’s $10.4 billion.

At the same time, overall sales across both days declined. According to RetailNext, overall sales for Black Friday and Thanksgiving fell by 1.5 percent, and average spending per shopper fell by 1.4 percent.

While in-store shopping declined, many shoppers simply shifted their Thanksgiving week shopping to online. Over 103 million people shopped online during Thanksgiving Day, beating the 102 million who went to stores. Online sales were up 14 percent from last year, reaching a record 7.2 billion dollars from Thanksgiving and Black Friday. So, while in-store sales fell, online sales were on the rise.

“It’s still a good performance for the weekend, given the growth that is being witnessed online as well,” said ShopperTrak founder Bill Martin.

According to Tamara Gaffney, principal research analyst at Adobe Digital Index, brick-and-mortar stores that have online sites offered better web deals during Thanksgiving and Black Friday, and had higher sale numbers than online only retailers. Online discounting levels averaged 26 and 24 percent, which is similar to last year’s discounts.

The success of online sales suggests that retailers don’t need to have their physical stores open to produce large holiday numbers on Thanksgiving Day. Instead, they can simply offer sales online, saving themselves money and their employees time.

There has been much pushback to stores remaining open through Thanksgiving Day; online petition site reported at least 123 petitions involving Thanksgiving hours, compared to 73 last year. The largest petition received over 100,000 signatures. This year, eighteen brands remained closed on Thanksgiving Day, including Staples which stayed open in previous years.

If disappointing in-store sales numbers continue, it may force more retailers to join them in the future. This would translate to a happier holiday season for retail workers, who then could spend the holiday with their families instead of working long, stressful shifts.

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