The pushback against T-Day openings

Workers want their lives back. That’s the sentiment behind the campaign to curb retail Thanksgiving Day business. The latest group to jump into the fray is package store owners who don’t want to sell alcohol on Turkey Day, but, being good capitalists, may be forced to open if their competitors do.

At issue is a bill filed by Rep. Colleen Garry, a Dracut Democrat, that would allow liquor stores to open on Thanksgiving. The rationale for this measure, filed by the lawmaker who represents a town that borders New Hampshire, is that liquor retailers are losing out to their cross-border competitors whose stores are open (and don’t charge sales tax).

Massachusetts law specifically prohibits liquor stores from opening on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Memorial Day.

Opponents of the bill who testified before the Joint Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure had a common refrain: Thanksgiving is for families.

South Shore liquor store owner Rick Curtis criticized the bill saying he didn’t care what any new law might allow: he would not change his mind about Thanksgiving openings. “As a retailer of 39 years with two stores and over 100 employees, I’m absolutely against it,” Curtis said. “Personally, it’s a very sacred day to me and my family, and I want to give my employees an opportunity to be thankful and stay with their families.”

However, Frank Anzalotti, executive director of the Massachusetts Package Stores Association, acknowledged that some liquor store owners whose businesses border New Hampshire, Rhode Island, or Connecticut may feel that they are losing out on revenue.

Although he didn’t have the data to back up his gut feeling, Anzalotti thinks that the sentiment would probably run counter to opening on Thanksgiving if association members were tallied.

The pressure on liquor stores to open on Thanksgiving because one’s competitors are resembles what’s going on in the rest of the retail industry where the Black Friday holiday season shopping frenzy has spilled over into what used to be a family-filled day of food and football.

Many of the nation’s largest retailers, including Walmart, Target, PetSmart, and Family Dollar, will be open. Others such as Mattress Firm, Staples, GameStop, Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, Burlington Coat Factory, and Costco have already announced that they won’t be.

More retailers seem to be thinking twice about opening on Thanksgiving. Many stores have not yet announced what they plan to do, according to Boycott Black Thursday’s Facebook page. The social media campaign, which sprang into action against pre-Black Friday sales on Thanksgiving in 2011, notes that, “What we’ve noticed is almost complete radio silence from major retailers….”

Grassroots consumer pressure has played a key role in the growing distaste for the conspicuous consumption death match that Black Friday has become, especially once it started creeping into Thanksgiving.

The Washington Post argues that the tussle over who is open and who is not has taken on a “moral” imperative: “It is morality as a marketing scheme, and it’s adding a new tension to how retailers will compete during some of the busiest shopping days of the year.”

It may also mark a time when being family friendly also makes good business sense. Last year, a CNN Money analysis found that opening on Thanksgiving is a “zero sum game.” Moreover, serious shoppers don’t necessarily wait until Thanksgiving or Black Friday to pop into stores for deals. Besides, the Internet.

Meanwhile, back in the Massachusetts package store world, at least one owner believes it’s not worth giving up a day off to chase the almighty dollar. In his testimony before the legislative committee, Steve Rubin, the owner of Boston’s Huntington Wine and Spirits, testified that Thanksgiving week is his slowest period of the year since his best customers, Northeastern University students, leave for the holiday.




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