By Katie Nielsen

PALO ALTO (KPIX) — The start of the holiday shopping season is less than a month away and with pandemic restrictions easing, many retailers predict people will be coming back to the stores in record numbers.

Economic experts estimate people could spend more than $850 billion shopping for the holidays but, this year, there will be fewer shopping days because some of the biggest names in retail say they’ll be closed on Thanksgiving Day to allow employees to spend time with family. Those companies including Best Buy, Costco, Forever 21, Home Depot, HomeGoods, Kohl’s, Old Navy, Target and Walmart.

“What they’ve realized as retailers is they’ll make just about as much money if they don’t open on Thanksgiving,” said Bob Phibbs, CEO of the Retail Doctor.

He says that, during the pandemic, more people got comfortable shopping online so the brick-and-mortar stores don’t need to pay staff overtime to have physical stores open when they can just get people to shop via their websites. Also, with the continuing labor shortage, getting enough staff to work on Thanksgiving could be a major challenge.

“We’re in the middle of the Great Resignation and people are trying to find a way to balance work and life and Thanksgiving is really one of the big family events,” Phibbs said.

Shopping malls are also getting in on the trend. This year San Francisco Premium Outlets in Livermore, Stoneridge Mall in Pleasanton, the Great Mall in Milpitas and Stanford Shopping Center in Palo Alto will all be closed Thanksgiving Day.

“I would almost say Black Friday too, you could close but I know that’s never going to happen anytime soon. Thanksgiving’s great. We don’t need to shop that day. We can take the day off,” said Huck Gee who was shopping in San Ramon.

“With coronavirus, people have realized how important family relationships are and the fact that the stores are honoring that, I commend them,” said Jayne Godwin, who used to go shopping with her family on Black Fridays.

Most retailers have announced they will be open the day after Thanksgiving — Black Friday — with extended hours.