This year, the Mall of New Hampshire will open its doors to Black Friday shoppers at 8 o'clock Thanksgiving evening. It's the earliest the mall has ever opened after the holiday.
Between 2005 and 2011, the mall's opening hour on Black Friday has moved one hour earlier about every two years. Then, in 2012, the opening hour jumped four hours earlier when the mall opened at midnight. Now, only a year later, it has jumped another four hours earlier, and it has encroached onto what many feel is the sacred domain of the holiday. Analysts call it Black Friday "Creep."
Simon Malls spokesperson Les Morris says some bigger retailers requested the earlier hours. Indeed, some of the major anchors in the Mall of New Hampshire such as Macy's, Best Buy and Sears have all announced they plan on being open Thanksgiving night nationwide. Best Buy plans to open two hours earlier than the rest of the mall at 6 p.m. Macy's is breaking its 155-year tradition of not being open on Thanksgiving for the first time this year.
Mall of New Hampshire General Manager Jack Toscano says Thanksgiving/Black Friday shopping has evolved over the years into a form of family entertainment and described the atmosphere in the mall as "joyous and fun." Toscano says changing the hours comes in response to customer feedback.
The increasingly earlier hours have been attributed to competition between stores, but many fear this escalating game of chicken might come crashing into the family dining room. Online petitions and social media posts reflect growing discontent with the new hours with some people calling for boycotts. Some of the most disgruntled are the retail workers themselves, who have to work the longer hours. Worker advocacy groups are planning protests and strikes.
For smaller stores in particular, it can be harder to find the seasonal help needed to keep its small crew of employees from pulling longer and longer shifts. Some have already pushed back. Smaller stores attached to the Mall of New Hampshire have little choice but to open with the bigger stores. If they choose to open late, their direct competition may choose to take advantage of the head start.
Another explanation for why stores are opening so much earlier this year is a loss of six days between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Why did we lose six days in our holiday shopping season compared to last year? As you may have guessed, the fluctuation has to do with having Christmas set on a specific date, whereas Thanksgiving moves around to fall on the fourth Thursday of November. The result is a cycle that spans decades.
So, after every drop of 5-6 days, we gradually regain the days over the course of the next 5-6 years. If this were the primary factor determining store hours, they should regress back to normal just as gradually. So far, there has been no indication that this will happen. When asked what he expects next year's hours to look like, mall manager Jack Toscano says "We will have to evaluate how this year goes."
Update 11/26 2:15 p.m.
A new survey conducted by New England College Poll shows 70% of New Hampshire voters oppose shopping on Thanksgiving. 53% of voters strongly disagree with the growing practice and only 15% support seeing retailers open on Thanksgiving.