Closed On Thanksgiving

Despite the rush from big-box retailers to swing their doors open on Thanksgiving, strict laws in Massachusetts, Maine, and Rhode Island are preventing outlets from opening on the holiday. It’s the legacy of so-called “blue laws”, which is a relief to employees and consternation of sale-hungry consumers. 

What are “blue laws”?

These laws prohibit large supermarkets, big box stores, and department stores from opening on Thanksgiving. Blue laws do not prohibit stores from opening at non-traditional hours on Friday, and some stores will open at midnight or 1 a.m. when the holiday deals start.

Blue laws were once widespread throughout the country and are thought to date back to Colonial times, although varied from state to state. 

Thanksgiving and Christmas are the main holidays affected in all three states, but in Massachusetts, blue laws also prohibit stores from opening on the mornings of Columbus and Veterans Day without state permission; Easter and New Year’s Day are also sometimes included.

The Controversy

Some business groups complain and some attempt legislative change; however, many shoppers, workers, and even retailers say they’re satisfied with a one-day reprieve from work and holiday shopping.

Still, there are concerns that not allowing stores to be open on Thanksgiving night could lead to shoppers spending their money in neighboring states. 

The holiday shopping frenzy has crept deeper than ever into Thanksgiving this year. Macy’s, J.C. Penney, and Staples will open on Thanksgiving for the first time. Toys R Us will open at 5 p.m., and Wal-Mart, already open 24 hours in many locations, will start holiday deals at 6 p.m., two hours earlier than last year. In recent years, some retail employees and their supporters have started online petitions to protest stores that open on Thanksgiving — but shoppers keep coming.

Stores have only started “Brown Thursday” within the past few years, so it’s hard to judge how much money the states are losing — if any at all. Regardless, stores in states that aren’t ruled under blue laws only have a few hour competitive advantage than those that are. 

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