After previously keeping its stores closed on Thanksgiving, video game retail chain GameStop is facing some criticism following its announcement that it plans to stay open during this year’s holiday.
“To better serve our guests with their evolving holiday shopping needs, this year GameStop will open its stores for a shortened and limited time on Thanksgiving Day,” the company said in a statement to gamer-focused news outlet Kotaku Monday.
“Many of our store associates and guests have asked for this. We have heard their requests and are making an adjustment to our previous position on this topic.”
In addition to upsetting some of its employees, who reportedly expressed their frustration to Kotaku, the announcement was also met with disapproval among some customers who criticized the new policy on social media.
— cdeitz (@cdeitz) August 1, 2017
— Chris Selig (@Spectre124) August 1, 2017
GameStop’s new policy adjustment seems to take a 180 degree turn from its earlier decision to keep its stores closed for Thanksgiving “out of respect” for its employees and their families.
In 2014, GameStop told ThinkProgress: “At GameStop we often use the phrase “protect the family” in reference to our business. A large part of what that means to us is to not open any of our GameStop, SimplyMac, Spring Mobile or Cricket Wireless U.S. locations on Thanksgiving Day out of respect for our store associates and their families and friends. We believe it’s the right decision not only for our employees, but also for our customers. Enjoy this time with your loved ones and we’ll see you on Black Friday.”
According to Gamerant, the new decision was prompted by the desire to catch more holiday shoppers and take advantage of the recently rolled out Nintendo Switch console, which is likely to be a popular item this holiday season.
However, another aspect that may have played a role is that GameStop has been struggling to keep up with the competition, as the video game market is shifting to the online sphere. According to a CNBC report earlier this year, GameStop expects to close between 2 and 3 percent of its stores in 2017.
So, considering these details, GameStop may indeed have strong reasons to keep its doors open this Thanksgiving. However, in today’s world of social media and the 24-hour news cycle, a company’s fiscal strategy should always go in lockstep with what it wants to project about its brand. And this is where GameStop seems to have a disconnect. Its recent announcement creates bad optics for the brand’s public image.
But what could the company’s public relations team have done differently in order to reduce a backlash?
Perhaps the company could frame the new policy as a temporary strategic move that would allow GameStop to take advantage of the upcoming sales rush for the newly released Nintendo Switch console. This could also help shift the media narrative away from the struggling store news angle.
In addition, GameStop could explain that the new policy does not go against its previous statements about respecting to its employees. This could be achieved by underscoring how the company appreciates the commitment of its team members. If GameStop plans to offer increased pay during holiday hours, it should have been a part of the brand’s messaging. If not, it would be a good idea to offer some kind of a special employee compensation for having to work on a holiday.
At the end of the day, a company is nothing without its employees, and doing the right thing is always the best PR strategy.