Costco is closed this Thanksgiving, a decision that made headlines when it was announced a month ago. At the time, The Washington Post accurately noted this sign of the extreme “madness of the holiday shopping season …It’s no longer notable when a retailer says it will stay open on Thanksgiving Day. Instead, it makes headlines when one says it’s going to close.”
The Thanksgiving closure is meant to give Costco employees time to spend with their family. But then Costco is a commercial outfit with a heart. Which it wears on its sleeve. It pays its workers very well (even raising wages during the recession). At roughly $20.89 an hour, a Costco salary is far above the minimum wage. It provides its employees with handsome benefits, including low health-insurance premiums and matched contributions to pension plans.
Costco’s Thanksgiving closure contrasts sharply with the trend towards retailers opening their doors on the holiday. Some say that it’s an attempt to start America’s Black Friday shopping ritual on Thanksgiving Thursday. Last year, Target, Kohl’s, Macy’s, Sears and J.C. Penney opened at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day. Wal-Mart, of course, stayed open, as always.
But turning Thanksgiving, a once-sacrosanct holiday, into just another shopping day may backfire. Companies with a heart – and a conscience – are beginning to stand out. And never mind Johnny Carson’s wisecrack about Thanksgiving’s emotional component: “People travel thousands of miles to be with people they only see once a year. And then discover once a year is way too often.”