Mall of America, the biggest shopping mall in the U.S., announced this week that they will close for Thanksgiving Day—a bold move that disrupts the increasingly early Black Friday shopping trend of recent years.
Located in Bloomington, Minnesota, Mall of America has been open for business on the Thanksgiving holiday for the past four years, following the lead of many other retailers starting their Black Friday sales on Thursday. However, on Wednesday Mall of America employees received email notifications informing them the mall will close its operations—including its movie theater and amusement park—on Nov. 24.
While the mall itself is closing, its more than 520 stores can choose to remain open if they want to keep their doors open to holiday bargain-seeking shoppers. However, mall executives expect most businesses will follow suit.
“We think Thanksgiving is a day for families and for people we care about,” Jill Renslow, the mall’s senior vice president of marketing, told the Associated Press. “We want to give this day back.”
Most of the 1,200 employees working directly for the mall will receive the day off, though some maintenance and security staff will have to work Thanksgiving should other tenants stay open. An additional 13,000 workers are employed by stores in the mall.
“We had tenants with tears of joy that they could share the news with their employees,” said Renslow on the reaction to the announcement this morning. “We have a lot of specialty retailers that have a smaller staff, and for them it’s a huge sense of relief.”
Not only does giving the holiday off mean workers get to spend the day with their families, it also allows stores more time to get ready for one of the biggest shopping days of the year. The mall will officially re-open at 5 a.m. the day after Thanksgiving to kick off its Black Friday festivities.
“We can shift the focus to Black Friday,” said Renslow. “To have that energy right at 5 in the morning and really bring that enthusiasm back.”
The Friday after Thanksgiving had long served as the official kickoff to the holiday shopping season. But over the past several years, Thanksgiving has become the new tradition as malls and stores try to outdo others amidst the increasing competition from online retailers. Many major stores like Macy’s, Target and J.C. Penney have opened increasingly earlier on Thanksgiving. But the move has also been controversial as many workers have voiced complaints and signed petitions that stores are putting profits over workers’ time to be with their families.
Given its size and status, the Mall of America could inspire other malls and stores to follow its lead. Many of the major retailers and malls have not made their plans for the Thanksgiving weekend season public.