Yesenia Elguedo is happy to be working on Thanksgiving Day. The 43-year-old co-manager at Forever 21's Herald Towers store in New York calls the holiday season "the Super Bowl of retail” and says she can’t imagine missing out on the excitement.
Not all workers are as thrilled. As a growing number of U.S. retailers prepare to kick off the holiday shopping season by opening their doors a day ahead of Black Friday, one in four employed Americans say they will work on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day or New Year's Day this year, according to an Allstate/National Journal Heartland Monitor Poll. And more than half, 55 percent, say the holiday work hours won’t be by their own choice.
Money explains much of the motivation to work on Thanksgiving Day and other holidays. “We have a lot of associates that are volunteering to work," said Elguedo. "Most of our employees at this location are college students and their incentive is getting paid time-and-a-half.”
Elguedo, who has been with Forever 21 for nearly two years, said this year so many associates volunteered for Thanksgiving and Black Friday duty that no one is forced to work.
Across the street from Forever 21 in Herald Square is Victoria's Secret, which plans to open its doors at 5 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day. “The advantage is we get paid time-and-a-half. But you’re also expected to make a bigger sale during the holiday season than on a regular day, which is challenging," said Sabine, 18, brand ambassador/sales associate at Victoria’s Secret.
To receive a commission, sales associates must reach a total of at least $300 in sales per hour. By the end of the month, employees will receive 8 percent of total dollars’ worth of sales during the month. Although hitting a sales commission seems more likely during the busy holiday shopping season, it is actually quite difficult to reach, says Sabine.
When it comes to preliminary expectations for when people will shop, of the 61.1 percent who say they will or may shop in stores and online over the weekend, 25.6 million, or 18.3 percent, say they plan to check out retailers’ Thanksgiving Day deals and shop Thursday, down from the preliminary 23.5 percent last year, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF). Around 74 percent of those who plan to shop on Thanksgiving Day said they shopped on Thanksgiving Day last year.
More than 95.5 million people are expected to shop on Black Friday, 60 million people are expected to shop on Saturday and one in five, or 30.3 million will shop on Sunday.