17th Century law alters retailers’ early Black Friday openings

Massachusetts stores won’t open at midnight

Old laws, dating back to the 17th Century, dictate that employees in Massachusetts may not work at all on Thanksgiving. The laws, called blue laws, throw a wrench in the plans of many retailers—such as Target, Walmart and Best Buy—which planned earlier openings than usual for the 2011 Black Friday.

The argument goes: Because employees can’t start working until the clock strikes midnight on Nov. 25, they won’t have enough time to prepare their stores for midnight openings, as many retailers are planning at their locations around the country.

“The blue laws are clear as mud in Massachusetts,’’ Jon Hurst, president of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts, told the Boston Globe today. “We’ve reminded some of the members informally that you have to be careful about the opening. Not only can you not sell on Thanksgiving, but there are also restrictions on labor working then.’’

Some retailers announced adjustments to their store-opening schedules in Massachusetts. Macy’s, Target and Walmart stores in the state will all be opening after midnight. Other stores that had previously advertised midnight openings—such as Best Buy, Kohl’s and Toys R Us—have yet to confirm if they have moved back their opening times.

One outlet mall in Massachusetts said it still plans to open at 12:01 a.m. the morning after Thanksgiving, as it does every year. “Wrentham Village Premium Outlets has always taken the proper steps to ensure that its Black Friday opening at 12:01 a.m. is in full compliance with state and local regulations,’’ the center said in a statement.


Cathleen Flahardy

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