Employees are taking back Thanksgiving!!! What impact will that have on your business if the trend continues? Is the trend driven by a return to more traditional values surrounding the Thanksgiving holiday or is it just plain good business sense?

Employers are asking themselves these questions ever since Recreational Equipment, Inc., otherwise known as “REI,” the outdoor camping equipment retailer, broke new ground this year by not only declaring that all 143 of its stores around the country will be closed on Thanksgiving - but also on Black Friday! And, its employees will be paid for not coming to work on Friday, in the hope that they will spend time with their families in the Great Outdoors. REI’s CEO, Jerry Stritzke, informed REI employees of the company’s decision in a letter, noting that the decision was based on the company’s 76-year tradition promoting a life outdoors.

The big-box stores first started encroaching on Thanksgiving in 2010, and the “Black Friday Creep” has taken on momentum ever since. Who hasn’t seen the crowds bursting through doors and fighting over the last big-screen TV??? Just watch this YouTube video for a cringe-worthy reminder of how bad things have gotten. As retailers began to open their stores earlier and earlier on Thanksgiving day, people, particularly employees who were dragged away from their Thanksgiving meals and family, have been getting tired and frustrated with the encroachment of the holiday shopping season into Thanksgiving.

This year the trend seems to be reversing, with REI taking the most dramatic stand. Stores that have announced they will be closed on Thanksgiving include Nordstrom, DSW, Costco, TJ Maxx, GameStop, Marshalls, Home Depot, and Staples, just to name a few. More and more stores are plastering the airwaves with advertisements telling consumers that the stores will be closed on Thanksgiving so that employees and shoppers can spend quality time with their families. But is that the reason? Fortune Magazine recently reported that opening on Thanksgiving has not really given stores the sales boost they were hoping for. Sales have simply been spread out over the long holiday weekend - falling last year by 11 percent because retailers started their sales earlier in November. Retailers have also found that opening early on Thanksgiving can be expensive because employees expect overtime pay.

And REI’s motives are even being challenged. In a November 20, 2015 online article, Fortune reported that REI’s co-op structure allows it to close its doors and won’t have a big impact on the retail industry. “Closing this year may hurt profits in the short-term, but the cooperative structure allows them to think of the long-term impacts the decision could have on customer and consumer loyalty.” That same article, however, goes on to state that REI’s closing on Black Friday “shows a strong dedication to the personal lives of REI employees, as well as commitment to its values and the mission it serves.” REI is one of only 13 companies that have made the Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For list every year since its inception in 1993.

So employers have to ask themselves, will closing on Thanksgiving, and maybe even Black Friday, improve the bottom line and make for a happier work place? Will there be a consumer and employee backlash if employers continue to encroach on Thanksgiving and creep into Black Friday? Tune in after the holidays for the numbers-crunchers to help employers decide what to do ….