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Mall of America takes bold stand by closing on Thanksgiving this year

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS / SEPT. 2015

    This Sept. 25, 2015 file photo shows the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn. The nation’s largest shopping mall says that it will be closed on Thanksgiving in 2016.

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MINNEAPOLIS » Bucking the trend in recent years of Black Friday shopping encroaching into Thanksgiving, the nation’s biggest mall has decided not to open on the holiday this year.

The Mall of America notified its employees and tenants Wednesday morning that it will close the mall — including Nickelodeon Universe and even its movie theaters — on Thanksgiving Day for the first time. Its 520-plus stores will have the option to open on the holiday, but mall executives expect that most will decide to remain closed.

“We’ve been talking about this for months, looking at the numbers, looking at the pros and the cons,” said Jill Renslow, the mall’s senior vice president of marketing and business development. “We’re excited to give this day back to our employees so they can celebrate with their families.”

The decision means that most of the 1,200 people who directly work for the suburban Minneapolis mall will get Thanksgiving off. If stores follow suit, the approximately 13,000 people who work at them will also get the day off. A limited number of the mall’s security and maintenance personnel will still work since some stores will likely decide to open and an annual fundraiser walk will still go on.

By making this move, Renslow added that the mall also hoped to “bring that special magic back to Black Friday.” The mall will officially open at 5 a.m. the day after Thanksgiving, instead of staying open all night as it has in recent years. Executives plan a special “door opening ceremony” and other festivities and giveaways.

In the last several years, many big-box stores and department stores have moved back their Black Friday openings with big doorbuster sales into Thanksgiving night in a fierce battle for consumers’ holiday spending. Crowds of shoppers have shown up at these earlier sales, justifying the change for retailers. But the phenomenon also met complaints from people objecting to the encroachment into the holiday.

At the same time, earlier openings have not led to more revenue for retailers, just spread out shopping over more days, analysts have noted. Many stores have also been rolling out “early Black Friday deals” earlier in November, which has taken some of the bang out of what typically is one of the biggest shopping days of the year.

Mall of America’s movie theaters and Nickelodeon Universe have been open for years on Thanksgiving Day. In more recent years, the mall has also opened for shopping on Thanksgiving night. Last year, the Mall of America encouraged its stores to open at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving and more than 150 of its stores did so, most of them staying open through the night. But for many of the mall’s smaller specialty stores, it was a hardship to staff those hours, which was also a factor in the mall’s decision.

It remains to be seen whether the change will affect sales over the Black Friday weekend when about 400,000 people typically visit the mall during the Thursday-to-Sunday period. But officials expect the traffic to be fairly similar this year over the course of the three days instead of four.

“By closing on Thanksgiving, we’re confident we’ll still get those strong numbers throughout the Black Friday weekend.” Renslow said.

Most other retailers and shopping malls have not yet announced their Thanksgiving and Black Friday hours yet.

But last year, several shopping malls around the Twin Cities put an end to the all-night shopping hours they held in previous years after seeing crowds dwindle in the middle of the night because of the earlier openings. They opened at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving, closed at midnight, then reopened on the actual Black Friday at 6 a.m. Best Buy, headquartered in suburban Minneapolis, has also closed its stores for a few hours in the middle of that night in the last two years.

But few have gone has far as outdoors retailer REI which made headlines last year when it decided to close on Black Friday itself.

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©2016 Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

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