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'Blue laws' ban shopping on Thanksgiving in some states

Nov. 27, 2013 @ 07:01 AM

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Shop­pers won’t be lining up for Thanksgiving Day deals at stores in Rhode Island. They can’t .

While in other parts of the country retailers will offer holi­day deals starting Thursday, most big stores in Rhode Island, Maine and Massachusetts are barred by law from opening on the holiday. It’s the legacy of so-called “blue laws,” which prohibit large supermarkets, big box stores and department stores from opening on Thanks­g iv i ng .

Some business groups com­plain it’s an unnecessary barrier during an era of 24-hour online shopping, and there have been some recent failed legislative attempts to change things. But many shoppers, workers and even retailers say they’re satis­fied with the status quo: a one­day reprieve from work and holiday shopping.

“I shop all year. People need to be with their families on Thanksgiving,” said Debra Wall, of Pawtucket, R.I., who will remain quite happily at home Thursday, cooking a meal for 10.

The holiday shopping frenzy has crept deeper than ever into Thanksgiving this year. Macy’s, J.C. Penney and Staples will open on Thanksgiving for the first time. Toys R Us will open at 5 p.m., and Wal-Mart, already open 24 hours in many loca­tions, will start holiday deals at 6 p.m., two hours earlier than last year. In recent years, some retail employees and their sup­porters have started online peti­tions to protest stores that open on Thanksgiving — but shop­pers keep coming.

Bill Rennie, vice president of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts, said many shop­pers are crossing into border states that allow Thanksgiving shopping, including Connecti­cut, Vermont, New York or New Hampshire, which is even more alluring because it doesn’t have a sales tax.

“Why not give stores in Mas­sachusetts the option?” he said.

The group has backed leg­islation, which has so far gone nowhere, to roll back the laws and allow stores to open on Thanksgiving and Christmas.

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