Why Costco Said “No” To Black Friday Creep

Now here's something novel:  a company standing up for its employees.

Remember the good old days when U.S. consumers actually took the time to celebrate Thanksgiving – and retailers let them do it?

It used to be that Black Friday sales began at 9am on the day after Thanksgiving.  That lazy consumers would wait so long to snag a new 42” TV or equivalent shiny object now seems downright quaint.

Over the course of the past few years, the Black Friday arms race has escalated.  First, stores started opening at 6am on Friday.  The next year they moved it up to midnight.  And then it was 8pm on Thanksgiving Day.

This year, the Black Friday Creep, as it is called, has a new winner (or is it loser?) – K-Mart will open its doors at 6am on Thanksgiving Day and stay open for 41 hours straight.  Other retailers have followed their lead.

But not all.

Costco and Nordstrom are among the dwindling handful that have taken a contrary stand, refusing to sell Thanksgiving out for an extra dollar.  Both will remain closed on the holiday, opening at regular time the following day.

When asked by The Huffington Post about Costco’s decision, a company executive noted, “Our employees work especially hard during the holiday season, and we simply believe that they deserve the opportunity to spend Thanksgiving with their families.  Nothing more complicated than that.”

These companies’ decision reflects an operating principle that sets their work environment (and, consequently, their customer experience) apart from other retailers:  They genuinely care about their employees and they trust them to do the right thing.

Many companies claim to embrace such values, but only a select few go beyond slogan leadership and provide employees with tangible proof points of the philosophy in practice.

That’s precisely what Costco and Nordstrom have done with this gesture.  It’s the kind of move that engages and inspires staff, and makes them proud to be associated with the store.  And that’s just one of the many reasons why a visit to Costco or Nordstrom feels a bit different than say…  a trip to K-Mart.

But what’s most troublesome about Black Friday Creep is the organizational trend it reflects – corporate neglect for the interests of employees, in favor of a single-minded focus on boosting the revenue line.  But smart companies know that these two things are not mutually exclusive.

Costco and Nordstrom have long demonstrated that being good to employees is good for business.  Over the past decade, both firms’ shareholders have enjoyed stock returns that were about four times greater than that of the broader market.

So while you take that turkey dinner on the run this year, think about the subtle messages that your company’s policies and practices may be sending to employees.

Then get busy, because there’ll only be 26 shopping days left until Christmas.

Unless, of course, some retailer decides to open its doors on December 25th.