The Thanksgiving hours are an effort by stores to make shopping more convenient for Americans, who still face economic uncertainty.
The National Retail Federation, an industry trade group, estimates that overall sales in November and December will rise 4.1 percent this year to $586.1 billion, or about flat with last year’s growth. But the online part of that is expected to rise 15 percent to $68.4 billion, according to Forrester Research.
As a result, brick-and-mortar retailers are trying everything they can to lure consumers into stores by making shopping as easy as possible. In addition to expanding their hours into Thanksgiving, many are offering free layaways and shipping, matching the cheaper prices of online rivals and updating their mobile shopping apps with more information.
While shoppers took advantage of the Thanksgiving deals, some workers protested the Turkey Day hours and other issues.
At the Miami Gardens Walmart at 17650 NW Second Ave., about 75 people protested with signs and a band from the nearby sidewalk. The collection of worker advocates, faith leaders and Walmart employees chanted “Walmart respect us” and “Workers united will never be defeated.”
"I’m just proud of everyone being out here as one," said Elaine Rozier, 50, who works at another Miami-Dade Walmart. Then she pointed at the building and said, "We are here for them."
Chris Powell, 23, an overnight stocker at the store, joined the protest before his shift began, clad in Walmart’s signature blue shirt and khakis. "I wish they would treat the employees as well as they treat customers," he said.
The local protest was part of a nationwide demonstration against Walmart, the world’s largest retailer. Workers spoke out about insufficient hours, low wages and about the early start of Black Friday sales, which they say keeps them from being able to spend the Thanksgiving holiday with family.
Many of Walmart’s stores are open 24 hours, but the company is offering early bird specials that once were reserved for Black Friday at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving instead.
The issue is part of a broader campaign against the company’s treatment of workers that’s being waged by a union-backed group called OUR Walmart, which includes former and current workers. The group is staging demonstrations and walkouts at hundreds of stores on Black Friday.
But retailers say they are giving shoppers what they want. Dave Tovar, a Walmart spokesman, said that the discounter learned from shoppers that they want to start shopping right after Thanksgiving dinner. Then, they want to have time to go to bed before they wake up to head back out to the stores.
Still, Tovar said that Walmart works to accommodate its workers’ requests for different working hours. "We spent a lot of time talking to them, trying to figure out when would be the best time for our events," he said.
Miami Herald reporters Elaine Walker and Diana Moskovitz contributed to this story.