Walmart announced that it will close all its stores for this year\'s turkey day as a \"thank you\" to associates. Walmart broke the news to employees on June 4 at the company\'s associate celebration meeting. - Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Originally Published: 06 JUN 21 10:54 ET
By David Goldman, CNN Business
(CNN) -- It's only June, but Walmart already has plans for Thanksgiving. They don't involve you.
The world's largest retailer announced that it will close all its stores for this year's turkey day as a "thank you" to associates. Walmart broke the news to employees Friday at the company's associate celebration meeting.
This marks the second-straight year in which Walmart will be closed on Thanksgiving — traditionally a big shopping day as stores extend deals to reduce crowds on Black Friday, the busiest day of the year for big box retailers. Last Thanksgiving, as the Covid crisis began to peak, Walmart shut stores on the holiday for the first time in 30 years.
Closing on Thanksgiving has been a source of tension between retailers and labor advocates in the past. Critics have argued that workers should be at home with their families instead of working.
Even as the pandemic winds down in many parts of the United States, Walmart clearly isn't concerned about losing customers on Thanksgiving, weighing its associates' well-being above any potential sales loss.
"Throughout the pandemic, our associates have been nothing short of heroic in how they have stepped up to serve our customers and their communities," Dacona Smith, Walmart US' chief operating officer, said in a statement. "We hope everyone will take the opportunity to be with their loved ones during what's always a special time."
In addition to giving employees Thanksgiving off, Walmart has also provided bonuses, enhanced mental health benefits and an improved leave policy during the pandemic to retain existing staff and attract new team members during some of the busiest — but most stressful — periods in the company's history.
Walmart was a huge beneficiary during the pandemic, with soaring sales, particularly online. Increased purchases on walmart.com could be another factor in the company's decision to close its physical stores on Thanksgiving this year.
The announcement may seem early, coming in the late spring, but Target beat its bigger competitor by six months. The retailer announced in January that it would close all stores for Thanksgiving 2021, acknowledging that its 2020 experiment worked for customers, associates and the company's bottom line alike.
"The response was so positive that we'll carry it forward this year, keeping our Target stores closed all day long on Thanksgiving Day," the company said. "This is just one example of how our evolving strategy is meeting the needs of our business and our guests."
-- CNN Business' Parija Kavilanz contributed to this report