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For decades, Trader Joe’s employees had to work on Thanksgiving — and it’s all because of wine

Some grocery shops can be open on Thanksgiving, anticipating your determined sprint for some last-minute dinner elements. Trader Joe’s will not be amongst them.

For greater than 30 years, the nationwide chain has shut down so employees “can spend Thanksgiving with family and friends,” says the corporate’s website. But it wasn’t at all times that manner. For many years, below founder Joe Coulombe, the nationwide chain stayed open on Thanksgiving, making many of its employees work in the course of the vacation.

According to Coulombe’s memoir “Becoming Trader Joe,” printed a 12 months after his demise in 2020, the rationale had little to do with meals — and the whole lot to do with drinks. Specifically, wine.

Coulombe opened the primary Trader Joe’s in Pasadena, California, in 1967. Initially, he wrote, he stored the shop open on Thanksgiving to compete with bigger chains: Most grocers round him closed, and staying open gave his tiny retailer a aggressive edge, even when he had to pay employees triple wages.

By 1975, most nationwide supermarkets had been additionally staying open on main holidays — eliminating that aggressive edge. But whereas many supermarkets made their identify with meals, Trader Joe’s used high quality, inexpensive wine gross sales to get forward in its early days. And whereas Christmas was a “lousy wine day,” Coulombe wrote, Thanksgiving was a “much bigger wine day than Christmas (which is, appallingly, a very good hard liquor day).”

So, the shops stayed open, albeit with restricted hours and further wages. It grew into a convention: All members of the Trader Joe’s administration staff, together with Coulombe, labored within the shops on these days. Today, that is a comparatively identified follow — executives at diner chain Waffle House, for instance, work of their eating places on holidays.

“That’s not just a policy,” Njeri Boss, Waffle House’s vp of public relations, tells CNBC Make It. “It’s a bedrock of our culture.

Whole Foods Market says “many” of its stores will be open on Thanksgiving this year with “modified hours,” while most locations of the Kroger supermarket chain will be open until 5 p.m. on the holiday. Convenience store chains Walgreens and CVS will also be open.

But staying open on a holiday like Thanksgiving is tricky: The sales you’re chasing might just barely outpace the exorbitant cost of paying workers overtime to remain open.

There’s a “fastened demand” from shoppers around Thanksgiving, retail consultancy Customer Growth Partners president Craig Johnson told Reuters in 2018. In other words, stores that close on Thanksgiving are likely to make up the sales they missed on the day before or after.

After Coulombe retired in 1988, Trader Joe’s began closing on Thanksgiving. In retrospect, he wrote, that was a smart decision by the company’s management team.

“Today, it’s unimaginable for a retailer to obtain differentiation by lengthy hours,” he wrote, adding: “It was an accurate transfer, lengthy overdue.”

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