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November 19. 2012 8:48PM

Manchester-area Walmarts plan early Thanksgiving openings

MANCHESTER - While several retailers are pushing the boundaries of Black Friday into Thursday night, Walmart stores in the greater Manchester area will open at the crack of dawn on Thanksgiving Day and will keep their doors open and workers on the job while most of America sits down to savor a traditional family feast.

A telephone check of stores in Manchester, Bedford, Hooksett, Derry, Amherst and Epping found Walmart stores open at 6 a.m. or 7 a.m. Thursday.

"It's ridiculous. I will not come down here on Thanksgiving," said Manchester resident Wesley Case as he walked into the Walmart in Bedford. Store management in Bedford, which is close to the Manchester city line on the West Side, took the additional step of gaining permission from the town planning board to open early Thursday.

Officials in Manchester and Hooksett said Walmart did not check with them about opening early Thursday, but said it was not required as part of their permits.

"We're open every day except Christmas," said a worker answering the telephone at the Amherst store.

"We don't close for holidays," said a person answering the telephone at the Manchester store.

Some national chains are distancing themselves from the tug of Thanksgiving Day retailing. JCPenney and BJ's Wholesale Club announced Monday that their Black Friday sales would begin on Friday morning, at 6 a.m. and 7 a.m., respectively.

Nationally, worker-rights groups and unions have berated Walmart and Target for launching their Black Friday sales before midnight. Websites and Facebook pages have been launched which criticize Walmart for an 8 p.m. opening on Thanksgiving. And Walmart has filed an unfair labor practices charge with a national clerks' union worried about disruptions to its Black Friday events.

But for Walmarts in the Manchester area, 8 p.m. won't signify a door opening, merely the start of a sales rush.

The Union Leader emailed questions to a national Walmart spokesman and did not receive a response by Monday evening.

One worker at the Manchester store said it opened at 10 a.m. last Thanksgiving. He said the company makes enough money to keep its stores open on Thanksgiving. The Manchester store, which is not a Supercenter, has to make $10,000 in daily sales to justify staying open. Last Thanksgiving, it pulled in $78,000, he said.

At the Bedford Walmart, an assistant manager said just about every worker is OK with working on the holiday.

"We make it nice for our associates," she said before a manager arrived to say no one could speak to a reporter.

Case said he worked retail jobs in the past and pulled lengthy Black Friday shifts. He said Black Friday workers can't relax with their family on Thanksgiving because they have to rush out for work.

Manchester resident Darcy Variava said the store should close around 3 p.m. so workers can eat with their families, then they can open at night for Black Friday.

"They shouldn't be open all day," Variava said. "Let them have dinner with their families and call in another set (of workers) for the night shift."

mhayward@unionleader.com



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