Last year, the pandemic forced many retailers to close their doors on Thanksgiving. And Target just announced its plans to make the change permanent and keep its stores closed for the Thanksgiving holiday.

Target CEO Brian Cornell announced the change in a note to employees on Monday. “What started as a temporary measure driven by the pandemic is now our new standard — one that recognizes our ability to deliver on our guests’ holiday wishes both within and well beyond store hours.”

Target is the first major retailer to close its stores on Thanksgiving permanently. This decision could encourage other brick-and-mortar stores to follow in its footsteps.

Target retail store located in the Hamilton Crossings shopping center in Lower Macungie Township, Pennsylvania on September 11, 2016.

The pandemic changes how retail stores operate

Target and other retailers began staying open on Thanksgiving to capitalize on Black Friday shopping about a decade ago. This change was primarily to compete with Amazon and other e-commerce stores.

For many people, the Thanksgiving weekend was a weekend-long shopping event. Consumers would stock up on holiday deals to prepare for the holidays.

But the sales resulting from Thanksgiving were usually lukewarm since most stores closed their doors by 5 PM. And staying open resulted in pushback from critics who argued that employees shouldn’t be forced to work on Thanksgiving.

The pandemic put an abrupt halt to all of this and forced brick-and-mortar stores to rethink their daily operations. Packing their stores full of shoppers wasn’t feasible, with coronavirus cases rising across the country.

To accommodate, Target and other stores began emphasizing online shopping. Instead of saving the holiday deals for the Thanksgiving weekend, these stores started offering deep discounts as early as October.

The decision to close on Thanksgiving seems to have paid off — holiday shopping rose 8.2% in 2020 from the previous year. And the National Retail Federation has estimated that 2021 could be even bigger.

Will the closure affect holiday shopping?

Target isn’t the only large retailer closing its doors on Thanksgiving — Walmart, Best Buy, and Home Depot will also be closed. However, the closure is unlikely to hurt these companies’ holiday sales.

This year, holiday spending is expected to grow between 8.5% and 10.5% to between $843.4 billion and $859 billion. This is largely thanks to the early online holiday deals many stores have offered. And Target will be open for shoppers on Black Friday.

But it’s not just large retailers like Target that need to prepare for Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Small businesses should capitalize on this marketing opportunity as well.

Here are a few tips to get ready for Black Friday:

  • Start highlighting promotions: No matter what kind of promotions your business offers, you should start sharing them with customers now. Create some holiday-themed photos highlighting the products that will be one sale. You can share them on social media and in your emails to customers.
  • Make sure your website is running well: Many people will be shopping from home this year, so it’s essential to prioritize online sales. If your website takes too long to load, you will miss out on potential holiday sales. Make sure your site is in working order before the holiday and that it’s optimized for mobile devices.
  • Expect challenges: Due to the ongoing pandemic, inventory shortages, and shipping delays, you should anticipate problems. Do your best to communicate with customers and meet these challenges as they come up.