THE WHAT? Walgreens Boots Alliance has announced an unprecedented decision to close nearly all its stores and pharmacies on Thanksgiving Day. This significant move is a first in the company’s history and aligns with peer CVS Health’s decision to shut its non-24-hour pharmacy locations early on the same day. Rite Aid will also be adjusting its operating hours, closing its pharmacies but keeping retail stores open, and shutting all stores on Christmas.
THE DETAILS This year represents a departure from the norm for pharmacy chains, which usually operate with adjusted hours on Thanksgiving, in contrast to major retailers like Walmart and Target that close. Walgreens, the second-largest U.S. pharmacy chain, aims to give its employees “time with their loved ones” by closing most of its over 8,700 stores. However, nearly all of Walgreens’ 700 24-hour locations will remain open, along with some key operational facilities. CVS and Rite Aid are making similar adjustments in their operations.
THE WHY? The decision to alter Thanksgiving operations comes amid growing concerns about work conditions and staffing levels within these pharmacy chains. Employees have voiced their discontent, leading to attempts to unionise with support from the IAM Healthcare union. There have been actions like a three-day walkout at CVS and Walgreens to demand better working conditions and increased staffing. While both companies reported minimal impact on their operations from these protests, the closures on Thanksgiving suggest a recognition of employees’ needs and a gesture to value their work and wellbeing.