Walmart will be closed on Thanksgiving, the giant retailer said today, marking the first indication that COVID-19 could make the traditional opening of holiday shopping season a lower-key affair for retailers.
Walmart U.S. CEO John Furner couched the decision as a way of appreciating employees for their work, as he also announced that the retailer would pay an additional $428 million in bonuses—$300 per full-time and $150 per part-time employee—bringing its pandemic bonus pay to a total of $1.1 billion.
“We know this has been a trying year, and our associates have stepped up,” Furner said in a statement. “We hope they will enjoy a special Thanksgiving Day at home with their loved ones.”
Last year, Walmart had regular store hours on Thanksgiving and launched doorbuster sales at 6 p.m. local time that day, roping off parts of the store until then for its first wave of “Black Friday” sales.
This year Walmart stores will operate normal hours on Wednesday, Nov. 25 before closing on Thanksgiving, and said it will announce plans for Black Friday hours “at a later date.” Sibling Sam’s Club will be closed on Thanksgiving, as it traditionally has, and also deferred Black Friday plans for now.
Walmart’s Thanksgiving closing could pressure other retailers that have been open at least during evening hours on the holiday to follow suit. It also raises questions about how aggressive retailers will be about luring big crowds into stores at a time when social distancing measures are likely to remain in place.
The pandemic is likewise dampening back-to-school advertising, given uncertainty about how many schools will reopen as well as the extent to which they’ll be open this year. Target and Walmart have begun back-to-school advertising, albeit in a low-key fashion. “However you go back, we’ve got your back,” says one Walmart TV spot, mentioning “school-in-the-backyard supplies” as one option.