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By Ashley Lutz
NEW YORK - Anthony Hardwick says he resents working at Target Corp. on Thanksgiving and has garnered more than 37,000 signatures on an online protest petition.
Target, Macy’s Inc., Gap Inc., Kohl’s Corp., Toys “R” Us Inc. and Best Buy Co. all plan to open at midnight or earlier on Thanksgiving in an attempt to goose sales that the National Retail Federation says may rise just 2.8 percent this holiday season, or about half as much as last year.
Hardwick, 29, who says he has been a Target parking attendant in Omaha, Neb., for three years, began the petition two weeks ago on the website Change.org after learning that he and his coworkers would be required to start at 11 p.m. Nov. 24 for a 10-hour shift.
“I was so disappointed the day I found out about this because I did the math in my head and I was going to have to go to bed in the early afternoon on Thanksgiving to go in and work 10 hours,” Hardwick said in a telephone interview. “Everyone at work was resigned because the economy is bad and so our employer has us over a barrel.”
Hardwick said he hasn’t heard from Target and that he fears losing his job for starting the protest and speaking to the media.
Target declined to comment on the petition, Molly Snyder, a spokeswoman for the Minneapolis-based company, said in a telephone interview.
“Target cares about the well-being of our team members throughout the year,” Snyder said in an emailed statement. “Our store leaders work closely with team members to accommodate their personal scheduling needs, as we do every year.”
Target employees who work on Thanksgiving Day receive time and a half for hours worked, Snyder said. Employees are paid normally on Black Friday, she said.
Target is the “unlucky” focus of a “new tradition” many retailers have started to spur excitement about the holiday season, said Marshal Cohen, an analyst at the Port Washington, N.Y.-based NPD Group.
“This petition and sentiment will gain momentum,” Cohen said in a telephone interview. “The people who avoid the stores will be telling the retailer they will not shop there because they are breaking tradition.”
About 22 million shoppers looked for deals on Thanksgiving last year, Kathy Grannis, a spokeswoman for the Washington-based NRF, said in a telephone interview. That’s about a quarter of the consumers who shopped the next day, known as Black Friday, she said.
Toys “R” Us stores will open at 9 p.m. nationwide on Thanksgiving, the Wayne, N.J.-based company said in a statement Monday. The retailer is offering many promotions for the holiday, including 50 percent off the LeapFrog Leapster 2, a children’s gaming system.
Gap decided to open 1,000 of its stores, including 800 Old Navy locations, on Thanksgiving because of customer appetite, said Louise Callagy, a spokeswoman for the San Francisco-based company.
“Our customers like to start their holiday shopping early,” Callagy said in a telephone interview.
Sears Holdings Corp. said last week that its namesake locations wouldn’t open until Black Friday so employees could spend time with their families. Its subsidiary Kmart will open on Thanksgiving.
Target shares fell 0.2 percent to $52.65 at 4:06 p.m. in New York. They had declined 12 percent this year before Monday.