Lord & Taylor

All of Manhattan’s other main flagships — Saks Fifth Avenue, Bergdorf Goodman, Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s — will stay closed for the holiday.

NEW YORK — Lord & Taylor on Fifth Avenue will be open for business on Thanksgiving Day, taking the competition by surprise by breaking the long-held tradition of remaining closed for the revered family holiday.

This story first appeared in the October 26, 2012 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

All of Manhattan’s other main flagships — Saks Fifth Avenue, Bergdorf Goodman, Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s — will stay closed Thanksgiving Day, although Lord & Taylor’s decision could force the hand of some to extend hours somehow.

Macy’s did open all of its stores last year at midnight following Thanksgiving Day to get the jump on Black Friday and will probably do it again this year because the strategy was considered successful. But under no circumstances will Macy’s or its sister division Bloomingdale’s be open Thanksgiving Day. “It’s parade day. We wouldn’t do that to our employees,” said one Macy’s source.

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Lord & Taylor’s decision could irk many of its employees. But one source close to the retailer said, “Lord & Taylor wouldn’t do it if they didn’t have the associates to volunteer. They wouldn’t do it if the workers weren’t happy.” L&T said those working Thanksgiving Day are indeed volunteers and will get holiday pay, and that a portion of the day’s sales will go to charity.

One salesperson at the Lord & Taylor flagship, who didn’t seem particularly excited at the prospect of working Thanksgiving Day, noted those who do will have some flexibility in their schedules for Black Friday if they were supposed to work then. Lord & Taylor will be open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Thanksgiving.

“We have new management,” said another selling associate at the store, giving one explanation for why he thought the Thanksgiving Day policy changed.

Just the flagship will be open on Thanksgiving. Suburban stores will be closed.

Lord & Taylor was bought by NRDC Equity Partners in 2006, which subsequently bought The Bay in Canada and rolled Lord & Taylor into a division of the new parent called Hudson’s Bay Co. Considering HBC is seeking to go public on the Toronto Stock Exchange later this year, some extra revenues around holiday time could help.

Lord & Taylor’s Thanksgiving Day decision, while unprecedented among Manhattan’s major flagships, is not unheard of, nationally speaking. Last year Gap Inc.’s various divisions had many stores open on Thanksgiving and plans to do the same this year. Toys ‘R’ Us, Kmart, Walgreens, CVS and Wal-Mart were among the stores that opened their doors at various times on Thanksgiving last year. Target last year opened at midnight on Black Friday, just like Macy’s, and extended store hours through the season.

“Just because Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s aren’t open Thanksgiving doesn’t mean Lord & Taylor can’t be,” said one retail executive. “There are lots of tourists in the city that day.”

Lord & Taylor expects to capture traffic from the hordes who come to Manhattan from around the metro area to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. It is estimated that 2 million to 3.5 million spectators cram Manhattan’s streets to get close to the parade. It begins at 77th Street and heads south on Central Park West to Seventh Avenue, before moving to Sixth Avenue and ending at Macy’s Herald Square.

As far as how holiday shopping could go, a new Deloitte study, based on online responses from nearly 5,100 U.S. consumers, shows a 2.3 percent dip in the average amount consumers intend to spend on gifts, to $386 this year from $395 in 2011. The survey also projected a decline in the number of gifts consumers intend to give, to 12.8 this year from 14.7 last year and a 2007 high of 23.1.

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However, the number of respondents who intend to spend less this year fell to 37 percent, the lowest level since 2006, and the share expecting improvement in the economy next year rose strongly to 50 percent from 33 percent a year ago.

“Consumers appear to be turning a corner and are more confident about the economy,” said Alison Paul, vice chairman of Deloitte LLP and leader of its retail and distribution sector. “Recent improvements in housing, employment and the stock market may have buoyed their spirits, but their optimism is somewhat tempered as they keep an eye on energy costs and possible tax increases.” The upcoming presidential election could “initially distract” shoppers, she noted, but a strong rebound is expected once electoral questions are put to rest in two weeks.

Deloitte last month projected a 3.5 to 4 percent increase in retail spending this holiday season to between $920 billion and $925 billion from $889 billion last year, based on current spending trends. The sales figures don’t include automotive or gas purchases.

Accenture suggested consumers are still thrifty but could let loose for holiday spending. In a sample of 500, Accenture found expected holiday expenditures will hit $582, or 16.4 percent above last year’s level, with 52 percent of respondents expected to boost their spending by $250 or more and 23 percent expected to spend more than $750. Despite the increased propensity to spend, only 5 percent characterized their buying plans as “extravagant” and just 8 percent said they intend to “splurge.”

“Many consumers are still struggling to balance their household budgets, at the same time that pay raises and bonuses remain in short supply, and they are realizing that this is not a short-term phenomenon,” said Chris Donnelly, managing director of Accenture’s retail practice. “Consumers will remain resistant to the impulse purchase and retailers will have to work harder to secure that extra spend by having a unique product, service or experience and being clear on the value to the customer.”