Click photo to enlarge
Alana Fusco, left, an employee at Gerald Peters, a jewelry store owned by Jerry Amerosi at the Staten Island Mall in New York, helps a customer choose a bracelet for her niece.

NEW YORK >> Some big retailers face scrutiny for opening on Thanksgiving, but many small stores have no choice.

Take jeweler Jerry Amerosi, who has three stores in New York's Staten Island Mall. Amerosi says he'd rather not work on the holiday, and if his stores were on a downtown or neighborhood street, he wouldn't.

But his lease at the mall requires him to open. That's the norm for most malls, whose landlords fine retailers up to $1,000 or more if they don't open.

So, Amerosi's stores will be open 6 p.m. to midnight. Eight employees will be working, and if this Thanksgiving is like last year's holiday, they'll have their hands full.

"It was crazy busy," says Amerosi, who declined to give sales figures for his stores, which include Gerald Peters and Gerald Peters Gold Mine.

Big national retailers and malls began opening on Thanksgiving several years ago. The idea was to cater to people who can't wait until the day after Thanksgiving known as Black Friday, to start their holiday shopping.

But that has led to criticism of retailers by some labor groups and shoppers for requiring workers to give up time with their families. As a result, some stores have come out publicly to proclaim that they'll remain closed on Thanksgiving. TJX, which owns TJ Maxx, Marshalls, and HomeGoods, even rolled out ads this year that tout its decision to stay closed during the holidays, with a narrator saying "family time comes first."


Still, there's been an expanding list in recent years of big chains and shopping centers that open at least part of the day. It can pay off: Shoppers spent an estimated $3.3 billion on Thanksgiving last year, according to ShopperTrak, a company that compiles retail industry statistics.

Different economics

The economics of opening on Thanksgiving can be a little different for the smaller guys. Flower and candy shops in some areas may decide to stay open for customers who need something at the last minute to take to Thanksgiving dinner. But experts say stores that sell gift items for the December holidays are likely to have few takers unless they're in a mall.

Most independent retailers are likely to close to spend time with their families, but also because shoppers won't be prowling downtown areas and neighborhoods to see who might be open, says Bob Phibbs, CEO of The Retail Doctor, a consulting company based in Coxsackie, New York. Unless a retailer is a coffee house or food store, he says they'll probably waste time and money by being open.

"They're not going to get much sympathy," Phibbs says. "People are going to ask, 'Are you nuts? Why didn't you close?'"

But some small stores in malls don't have a choice.

Refinery, a men's leather goods and accessory store, will be open along at 10 a.m. with the other stores in the Coconut Point mall in Estero, Florida, on the Gulf Coast. Owner Andrew Kryliouk says he'd rather not work on Thanksgiving, but like other retailers in the mall, he's required to open his store.

Many of Kryliouk's customers are people known as snowbirds, who spend the cold weather months in Florida and head back north in the spring. Many shop on Thanksgiving because they don't have family nearby and so aren't having big holiday dinners.

"They might go to a restaurant, and then go to the mall to hang out," says Kryliouk, who had $1,000 in sales last year, compared with $4,000 for a typical November day.

At the Great Mall in Milpitas, California, Alder Riley expects to be busy on the holiday helping customers who need replacement parts for espresso makers, TV remotes and other household items — something always seems to break on Thanksgiving. Last year, when Riley's business was located in Vermont, his main store in Burlington had $1,200 in revenue, four times the take on a typical day.

Riley's kiosk, Blu-Bin, uses machines known as 3-D printers to quickly make the parts out of plastic. He'll have three people working from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. that day, earning twice their usual pay as they run eight printers.

"We're anticipating quite a crunch," Riley says.