Target to close for Thanksgiving, double down on same-day services

Linda J. Dodson

Dive Brief:

  • Target has opted to close its stores for Thanksgiving Day this year after opening on the holiday for most of the past decade. The announcement comes days after Walmart announced it would close its U.S. stores on Thanksgiving. 
  • The mass merchant is also adding 20,000 new products to its pickup and delivery services, including fresh and frozen grocery products.
  • As a kind of antidote to crowded shopping amid a pandemic, Target said it would offer its biggest deals for holiday shopping “earlier than ever,” starting in October, so that customers “can shop safely and conveniently without worrying about missing out on deals that usually come later in the season.”

Dive Insight:

Target acknowledged at the top of its press release the dramatic and uncertain context around this year’s holiday shopping season. “There’s no question, the holiday season is going to be very different this year,” the company said. “Just as you’ve trusted Target for safe, convenient shopping throughout the pandemic, you can count on us to deliver that and so much more every week throughout the holiday season and beyond.”

Even the retailer’s deals were framed in terms of the COVID-19 pandemic. “Let’s face it: Historically, deal hunting and holiday shopping can mean crowded events, and this isn’t a year for crowds,” the company said.  

Target, like the retail industry broadly, has to walk a fine line between running its business and enforcing social distancing guidelines, both its own and those issued by state, regional and federal agencies. 

The decision to close on Thanksgiving follows that of fellow mass merchant Walmart, which has opened on the holiday for more than three decades. Walmart couched its own announcement in appreciation for its workers, who have been on the front lines throughout the pandemic, with the company’s stores open as an essential retailer. 

Neither Walmart nor Target have released hours or broader plans for Black Friday, which last year more than doubled the traffic of Thanksgiving across the retail world. 

While Target prepares for smaller shopping crowds during the holidays, it’s also preparing for massive increases in its other channels during the season with the addition of 20,000 new items available through its Drive Up, Order Pickup and Shipt same-day services. Already in the first quarter, defined largely by the pandemic, those three same-day services together grew 278%, according to the company. 

Target made investments into those services in recent years anticipating a world where people wanted convenience and multiple options for making purchases. The pandemic has accelerated all of the trends that drove those investments. Adapting to the chaos of pandemic shopping has not been without hiccups for Target, it is far better positioned that it would have been even a couple years ago, and likely better position than many of its smaller peers.

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