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Editorial: Retail stores should be closed on Thanksgiving

Editorial: Retail stores should be closed on Thanksgiving

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A man wears a face mask while entering the North 16th Street Walmart in Council Bluffs on Wednesday. Walmart officials said that, starting Monday, stores will require customers to wear face coverings at all of its namesake and Sam’s Club stores, making it the largest retailer to introduce such a policy that has otherwise proven difficult to enforce without state and federal requirements.

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed so much about how we live. From work to school to family time to everyday life, we’ve all had to make adjustments in at least one aspect of living. For many people, the pandemic has accomplished one positive thing: It has reinforced — and even strengthened — the importance of family.

On Tuesday, Walmart Inc. announced that it will be closing its namesake stores and Sam’s Clubs on Thanksgiving Day this year, saying that it wants to have its employees spend time with their families during the coronavirus pandemic. The move marks the first major indication of how COVID will affect Black Friday store shopping, which for almost a decade kicked off with big crowds on the turkey feast and expanded into Friday.

Council Bluffs has two Walmart locations — at 1800 N. 16th St. and 3201 Manawa Centre Drive — and one Sam’s Club location at 3221 Manawa Centre Drive.

Within the last decade — possibly longer for some stores — we’ve seen more and more retail locations open up on the holiday that is traditionally about family time. While we know that there are some stores that have never been open on Thanksgiving, it is important to recognize the significance of Walmart’s decision. In the competitive market, those stores that chose to be open on the holiday were faced with the harsh reality that staying closed meant losing business to their competitors. Therefore, employees were needed to staff the stores despite the holiday, making it so they had to adjust their plans, if not have to cancel them outright.

The pandemic has shed a new light on many of these retail workers. In stores like Walmart, which is considered an essential business, employees have been hard at work amid an international outbreak. While others are allowed to remotely work from home, they are in the stores making sure items are stocked, cleaning every surface and ensuring that the general public has access to the things they need such as food, medicine, clothing and toiletries. They’ve worked hard. That should be acknowledged.

Given safety concerns, other retail chains are rethinking their plans for the holiday shopping kickoff.

Walmart’s clout as the nation’s largest retailer should set the example for other major retailers to follow. Macy’s CEO Jeff Gennette told the Associated Press earlier this month that the department store will be pivoting its Black Friday business more toward online and will likely be going “full force” with holiday marketing right after Halloween. It also will be staggering events to reduce customer traffic in the stores.

Walmart and others have been under increasing pressure by labor-backed groups to extend bonus pay for front line workers as surges in new cases have spiked in many states. In an effort to address part of that, Walmart also said Tuesday that it will be giving out another round of bonuses for workers on the front lines of the coronavirus. The company said that it will dole out $300 for full-time hourly workers and $150 for part-time hourly and temporary workers. Drivers, managers and assistant managers in stores, clubs, distribution centers and fulfillment centers and health and wellness will also receive a bonus. It will add up to approximately $428 million, Walmart said.

The bonuses will be included in Aug. 20 paychecks for eligible workers employed as of July 31.

“Our associates have been working at an incredible pace, they’ve solved problems, and they’ve set an amazing example for others,” said John Furner, president and CEO of Walmart U.S., in a corporate blog post. “To further appreciate their incredible work, we are pleased to share another special cash bonus this summer.”

Many people have long derided stores opening on Thanksgiving, but at the same time, that debate hadn’t stopped the lines of people seeking the special “doorbuster” pricing from forming outside stores. We applaud Walmart’s move and hope that other retail businesses will follow suit — not only for this year, but for years to come.

In-store shopping can wait until Friday. Let the retail workers have the holiday with their families.

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