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Q&A With Beyond.com CEO: Retailers Opening on Thanksgiving for "Black Thursday"

With Black Friday approaching, the talk of big box retailers opening on Thanksgiving Day has been a hot topic.  The team at Employment Metrix chatted with Rich Milgram, CEO of Beyond.com, The Career Network to understand his thoughts on the topic, besides his concern that the concept of Thanksgiving dinner could disappaer with shoppers feeling the need to lineup even earlier.  Here’s what he had to say:

EM: Is it fair to make employees work on Thanksgiving? Why or why not?

RM: No, it’s not fair to demand that employees work on Thanksgiving. If working on Thanksgiving is tied to an employee’s year-end compensation or tenure then that is morally wrong. However, these large retailers understand that the success of their business is based on the relationships they have with their employees and with that being said they should make decisions with their employees in mind.

Overtime pay shouldn’t be in question when it comes to employees working on Thanksgiving.  Companies that do not pay overtime should be in question.

EM:  What does this say about the changing mindset of big box retailers? 

RM: This says less about the retailer and more about society as a whole. Target, Sears, Kmart, and others are all doing what they need to do maximize sales and profits. Our democratic society yields opportunity for large corporations to take unique actions that will help grow businesses, however there are times when those actions will challenge societal morals…it’s a fine line.

EM: What's the psychological impact on employees?

RM: There will be pressure, whether it’s inflicted by the corporation or self-inflicted by the employees to work when they wouldn’t normally.  It is important to remember that downtime away from work is necessary for everyone.  The holiday season is stressful enough and retailers need to understand that they can cause undue stress to their employees and if that does happen, that can backfire.

EM: Does this spell the end of holiday days off as we know it for retail employees?

RM: I seem to recall Labor Day specials and Memorial Day sales. Overtime this change has been more and more accepted and expected. Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day have always been considered sacred, but that doesn’t appear to be the case anymore.

EM: Which retail positions are in the highest demand and where?

The top job titles that were posted to Beyond.com, The Career Network in third quarter of 2012 in the retail industry were for Assistant Store Managers, Shift Supervisors, and Sales Associates.

The most retail jobs are located in large metros like New York, DC, LA, Dallas, Miami, Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, Houston, Minneapolis, San Francisco, and Detroit.

Thanks Rich for the insightful chat!