What Does #BoycottBlackThursday Mean For Company Culture?

The holidays are fast approaching! People across the country are planning Thanksgiving dinner and planning their holiday vacations. It seems like the retail world moved from Halloween to Christmas overnight!

But, there’s one time-honored tradition that’s been experiencing some backlash over the past couple years: Black Friday’s extension into the Thanksgiving holiday.

This year, with DSW’s public announcement that their stores will stay closed on Thanksgiving Day and open no earlier than 7am on Black Friday, it seems like the battle lines are being drawn between retailers choosing either their shoppers or their employees over the holidays. Other retailers, like Walmart, are going to be open the entire day on Thanksgiving.

We asked our team for their thoughts on the deeper culture implications of the Black Thursday phenomenon.

What does biggest shopping day of the year do to employee morale and the culture within these stores? What is the balance between the perceived needs of the consumer, and taking care of your employees? And, if stores like DSW are getting praise for making this decision, should more retailers should follow their lead, even if it means losing out on some of the biggest shopping hours of the year?


Ashley Klecak – Associate

ashleyPeriods of fierce retail competition like Black Friday leave employers navigating a tricky balance between meeting customer expectations and employee needs. Is DSW making the right play?

They are.

Engaged employees have an emotional commitment to an organization and its goals.  Because they are emotionally invested, they provide above-and-beyond service, which leads to happier, return customers who refer friends to the business.

Research shows this correlation through an employee-customer-profit chain. The key takeaway from studies with many with retailers on this topic is that employee engagement and profitability are correlated with customer loyalty as the mediating variable.

Employee Engagement ——-> Service ——-> Customer Satisfaction & Loyalty ——-> Profit

In essence, taking care of employees will result in greater profitability, which could offset losses around these holiday sales for DSW.

Choosing to be closed on Thanksgiving Day is likely a part of a greater series of actions, large and small, that DSW leadership is taking to show consideration for their employees. This is a powerful way to build employee engagement, bolster the customer experience, and grow as a business.

Stuart Farrand – Associate

stuart-farrandWhile it’s likely not something employees enjoy, I bet retail employees see working on holidays (however companies choose to define those days) as part of the job.

That being said, the willingness for some companies to stray from this norm says a lot about their particular culture.  In this case, companies like DSW and Costco acknowledge that there are limits to what they can ask of employees during the holidays and that spending time with their families on Thanksgiving takes priority.

There’s nothing inherently good or bad about it, it is just how they are striking the balance.  For instance, there are a number of other companies, notably Chick-fil-A, that do not open their stores on Sundays.  While most retailers maintain normal hours that day, these firms chose to let their employees stay home or go to religious services with their families.  Their customers have come to understand this and have changed their shopping habits accordingly.

It ultimately comes down to the kind of culture they want to embrace and the type of incentives they want to provide to their employees. What may be changing is what is relevant to more employees. With regard to extending holidays – like starting Black Friday on Thursday – we may see more businesses shift in the direction of DSW and Costco.

Of course, you can’t ignore the role consumers play in this process.  Black Friday is as much a cultural phenomena as the day that precedes it.  As long as there is a critical mass of people interested in shopping on both Thanksgiving and Black Friday, many stores will continue to find ways to be open.

Mark Emerson – General Manager

mark-emersonI grew up in Silicon Valley and every Easter when I was a lad, we would head down to visit my relatives in Monterey, CA.  My mom would go shopping on Friday/Saturday for everything we needed because there would be, without exception, NO grocery store open on Easter.  The same thing for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day.

Many companies profess to put employees first, but they then open on holidays out of fear of competition and/or to tout their devotion to the customer.  I believe that this is where company culture truly shows its colors.

If retailers were closed on major holidays, in my opinion, it would likely result in greater employee satisfaction and customers would adapt. No one goes to Costco on a holiday because they are all closed (and the last time I checked, Costco has both happy employees and no loss of business).

With the rise of e-commerce, retailers could certainly come up with innovative solutions that serve both employees and customers. For example, having a blowout online sale and then inviting customers to pick up their purchases the next day would get people to “visit” twice and up the chance they’d find even more to buy.

Anton Rius – Digital Marketing Manager

anton-riusFor many years, I donned a black clip-on tie and white socks as a member of Best Buy’s Geek Squad.

While I didn’t have to actually work on Thanksgiving, I was expected to report in for a 12 hour shift at 4am the next day. It was expected as an employee of the company. It was something we all had to do, whether our extended family was waiting or us at home or not.

Before we opened our doors, we’d have a line of turkey-stuffed customers camping around the block at our stores. As the magic hour approached, I could see them begin to stir, become restless, and begin excitedly talking about the $200 laptop they were expecting to grab that morning.

Eventually, the doors would open. Our team of employees, hopped up on energy drinks, would herd the eager customers to the appropriate department for their needs and help them find what they were looking for.

Most of the sales on Black Friday would occur within the first several hours. After that, it was another busy day for the store. We would be some family’s second or third stop depending on the priority of the door busters on their list.

Not one of the employees enjoyed being there. We all wanted to be at home, eating leftover turkey sandwiches and spending time with the family. I can’t imagine having to work on Thanksgiving, too.

The reality is, no one would think twice about going to Walmart or if they weren’t ‘proudly’ announcing that they are open for Thanksgiving Day. They aren’t catering the desires of their customers; they’re fabricating opportunities to make money for themselves without any regard for the people on the front lines.

Whether the company knows it or not, this profoundly affects the employees’ desire to continue working there. If organizations are unable to show their employees that they matter through action, and not just on paper, their people are far less likely to be motivated by the work they’re being asked to do on a daily basis.


There has to be a balance between serving employee morale and serving customers, but it also boils down to consumer relevance. With e-commerce and mobile shopping gaining so much traction in recent years, retail shoppers will adapt just fine to stores staying closed on holidays like Thanksgiving.

Would you go shopping after turkey on the 27th? What do you think of these retail giants staying open on Thanksgiving?