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Butler County’s Clearview Mall states it will fine retailers closed on Thanksgiving

Nicole Joseph, manager of the American Commodore Tuxedo store in Butler County’s Clearview Mall, doesn’t think it’s worth opening the store on Thanksgiving.

“People don’t run out to buy or rent tuxedos on Thanksgiving or Black Friday. Graduations and weddings are in May and June,” Joseph said. She’s not sure the store would see a single customer.

Mall management sent store managers a letter Friday that the mall will open on Thanksgiving Day at 6 p.m., and most other stores are required to be open, too, or face fines. Joseph said she is not opening and does not know what to expect from management.

Merchants are increasingly under pressure to open on Thanksgiving, which is Nov. 27 this year, as the holiday shifts from an eat fest to a shop fest.

Clearview has no real choice but to open as well, said mall Manager John Brautigam.

“All the malls are doing that. When any mall promotes being open, customers expect all of the stores to be open,” he said.

Retailers keep opening earlier and earlier on Thanksgiving, yet retail experts say the threat of fines is unusual — but not unprecedented.

Audrey Guskey, associate professor of marketing at Duquesne University, said she has never heard of such fines and thinks store owners should decide when to open — as they do in the prominent case of Chick-fil-A, whose religious owners keep the chain’s restaurants closed on Sundays.

“Thanksgiving is a spiritual holiday for many people, maybe even more than Christmas is,” Guskey said.

The letter from Brautigam states: “Most stores are required to be open during established/advertised mall hours including expanded hours during the holiday season, with fines applicable for not adhering to those hours.”

Karen McCormick, a manager at Garfield’s restaurant and pub in the mall, said many stores have leases that state they must be open when the mall is.

McCormick said she sees both sides of the argument about Thanksgiving retail hours.

“We are losing family values. It is all about a buck. But retailers have had many hard years,” she said.

Some store managers say they view the letter and a Thursday meeting with mall managers as veiled threats. Brautigam’s letter is neither specific about the size of the fines nor does it state what the mall’s hours will be later in the holiday shopping season.

Some large national chains, such as T.J. Maxx — including the T.J. Maxx store at Clearview — do have a choice about when to open. The decision for large national stores is up to a company’s corporate officers, Brautigam said.

Nationally, chain stores including Costco, T.J. Maxx, DSW, Home Depot, Lowe’s, Marshalls and Nordstrom, all say they will not open on Thanksgiving.

Small stores like Clearview’s Deer Creek Winery had to “fight tooth and nail” to stay closed, said store manager Angela Pagliaroli.

“It’s ridiculous. The demand for what we sell will never be there on a holiday like Thanksgiving,” she said.

Frank McCleester, assistant store manager at Clearview’s Boscov store, said it has only recently been open on Thanksgiving.

“This is driven by Wal-Mart and Target. It is also consumer-driven. Mr. Boscov’s would probably rather have us be with our families that day,” he said.

Mall stores opened at 8 p.m. Thanksgiving 2013 and at midnight on Thanksgiving 2012, according to merchants.

Westmoreland Mall will open at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving, but individual stores have the option of staying closed, said General Manager Michael Egan.

Egan said he expects most stores will open that night. There are no fines if stores stay closed, he said.

Stacey Keating, a spokeswoman for CBL & Associates Properties Inc., the Tennessee company that owns the Monroeville Mall, says stores there are not required to open on Thanksgiving.

Les Morris, a spokesman for Simon Properties, which owns the Ross Park and South Hills Village Malls, declined to comment.

Last year, 43 percent of millennials, people born starting in the early 1980s, said they shopped on Thanksgiving Day — up from 36 percent in 2012, according to the National Retail Federation.

Rick Wills is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7944 or [email protected]. Staff writers Kari Andren and Gideon Bradshaw contributed to this report.


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