MONEY Shopping

Are Millennials to Blame for Stores Being Open on Thanksgiving?

millennial shoppers window shopping
Mireya Acierto—FilmMagic

Retailers say they're open on Thanksgiving because that's what customers want. But one age group in particular is more than happy to leave the dinner table and go shopping on Turkey Day.

Yes, it’s the millennials—the Baby Boomer offspring demographic whose consumer behavior is analyzed ad nauseum by marketers—who say they’re plenty game for shopping on Thanksgiving.

According to one national survey from the loyalty marketing and customer analytics firm LoyaltyOne, only one-third of the overall population thinks that “stores being open all day Thanksgiving is a great idea.” However, roughly half of those ages 18 to 24 say it’s “great” for stores to be open on the national holiday, while 48% of consumers ages 25 to 34 are also on board with the idea. Among folks ages 55 and up, by contrast, only 16% think all-day store hours on Thanksgiving is a wonderful idea.

Another recent poll, conducted by IPSOS for, yielded similar results, in which millennials are more likely than other generations to say they’ll be shopping this Thanksgiving. Two-thirds of those ages 18 to 34 say they plan to shop on the holiday—in store, online, or both—compared to 51% of consumers ages 35 to 54 and only 30% of the 55+ category.

So it would seem as if all of the retailers that insist on being open on Thanksgiving are doing so to an outsized degree to play up to millennials, the all-important shopping demographic that’s 80 million strong and expected to account for 30% of all retail sales by 2020. Following this idea through, if the hundreds of thousands of Americans who hate the idea of consumerism encroaching on Thanksgiving and have pledged to not shop on the holiday are looking for something to blame other than plain old greed on the part of retailers, it would be easy to point the finger at millennials. After all, as many “Black Thursday” boycotters have pointed out, the stores wouldn’t be open on Thanksgiving if no one showed up to shop that day.

And yet, it’s much too simple to say that if it wasn’t for millennials, the stores being shamed for Thanksgiving Day hours would see the light and remain closed that day. For one thing, a broader look at millennial consumer behavior shows that a big reason this group is eager to jump on board with shopping on Thanksgiving is that young people like the idea of shopping pretty much every day. Other studies show that millennials are four times more likely to shop on Black Friday than their Baby Boomer parents, and that millennials have the highest percentage of any generation that will be shopping on Cyber Monday as well.

Add in that millennials are less likely to have families or own homes, and so therefore they’re less likely than older groups to host Thanksgiving or feel like the day must remain a sacred one devoted exclusively to family time. If anything, many members of Gen Y—who have always lived in a world with 24/7 access to shopping and deals, thanks to and e-retail—are probably more than ready to ditch their families for some portion of Thanksgiving when the day’s sales beckon. At some point, the small talk with Aunt Myrtle grows stale.

Of course, millennials are hardly the only ones who will be deserting the family dinner table before dessert is served in order to go shopping on Thanksgiving. What’s more, some of what might be perceived as anti-family, anti-Thanksgiving sentiment on the behalf of millennials can be explained by how survey questions are asked. In yet another holiday consumer poll, 77% of Americans ages 18 to 39 said that “retail stores should not be open on Thanksgiving Day so that employees can enjoy time with their friends and family.”

When the issue is raised this way—with the focus on employees who might be forced to work on the holiday—it’s clear that the vast majority of millennials don’t want to see Thanksgiving ruined for American families. On the other hand, millennials more so than other age groups appear to like the idea of shopping on Thanksgiving at least partly because they don’t want to be stuck for the whole day with families of their own.


Here’s a Sneak Peek at Lululemon’s New Store For Men

Pat Young—lululemon athletica 2014

“It’ll be a men-specific playlist.”

Few, if any, major workout clothing brands are more closely identified with women than Lululemon, which is what makes news of the company’s plan to open a store geared exclusively to men in New York City all the more intriguing.

“We’re such a strong women’s brand,” Felix del Toro, SVP of Lululemon Men’s told TIME. “There hadn’t been the same amount of attention to who the guy was, who the guest we’re appealing to was.” (Guest, for the uninitiated, is retail-speak for customer.)

Men are most familiar with Lululemon as the maker of tight yoga pants that are designed to be flattering to the female posterior. The brand has long carried apparel for men but has remained famous primarily for the butt-enhancing tights that are its bread and butter, as it were.

And so, on roughly the day after he started working at the company, del Toro says, Lululemon started devising a men’s store. They conceived of their idealized guest: in his 30s, confident, accomplished, goal-oriented, self-assured (your proverbial “husband material,” basically).

“We call him the ‘athletic opportunist’,” del Toro says. “He’s a guy who does a variety of things, whether he’s on vacation and he’s going to pick up surfing or in the mountains going skiing for the weekend. He could be a team sport player, he could be a triathlete, he could be a marathon runner.”

Lest you, gentle male reader in his 30s, become disheartened, note that your humble 30-year-old correspondent meets just one of those criteria and still—as I learned recently when someone pointed out the brand I was unknowingly wearing—I happily own a pair of Lululemon running shorts, so there’s hope for you too. The brand clearly wants its apparel to be “aspirational”—the sort of thing someone buys, at least in part, not because they are an athletic opportunist but because they want to be one.

Lululemon wouldn’t share drawings or mockups of the store, but del Toro described its design elements, which are meant to evoke the natural beauty of the company’s hometown, Vancouver, Canada.

Located at 127 Prince St downtown Manhattan’s SoHo, the 1,600 square-foot space will have floor-to-ceiling windows, del Toro says, and a focus on concrete, wood and glass all given a weathered texture to show that “they have life.”

“The materials and aesthetic are masculine but it’s grounded in nature and it feels connected to our brand,” del Toro says.

The store will have two sound systems and two projectors, one of which can also be seen from the street. (Show Deerhunter and The Big Lebowski on a loop, Lululemon, and I guarantee you Will Not Fail.).

Del Toro wouldn’t get specific about what music will be playing at the men’s shop but says, “It’ll be a men-specific playlist.”

“If you go into any one of our stores it’s typically very upbeat and very poppy. I think the playlist for the men’s store probably won’t have a single song that’s in your average store. We’ll look at local artists,” he told TIME, “music that we think appeals to Him. Because our stores are really grounded by our female guest and the music really appeals to Her. The tone will be really different.”

Inspired by the idea of a “workshop” the store will also offer something Lululemon calls “joinery,” in which four pairs of shorts can be given customized liners. As a failed aspiring amateur woodworker, the term joinery seems like a misnomer to me here, but being able to specify the exact kind of liner in my athletic shorts feels spot-freakin-on.

Two similar locations will open in Santa Monica and Miami before the end of the year, del Toro says. The Soho location is set for an opening on Black Friday, which is my own personal iteration of hell, but if I had to spend it at a retail establishment a 1,600 foot glass cube in SoHo with “men-centric” music playing actually sounds not terrible.

MONEY credit cards

This Is Why Prepaid Cards Are Still Risky

swiping card
Erik Isakson—Getty Images

You might not be able to recover your money if your card is lost or stolen. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau wants to change that.

Over the past five years, prepaid cards have become an increasingly popular alternative to debit and credit cards. Last year, 12% of households used the cards, which can be loaded with cash and used like debit cards.

They’re especially popular among millennials, whom surveys have found to be credit card averse and distrustful of financial institutions. More than 25% of people aged 25 to 34 years old used prepaid cards last year, according to a survey from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. And among people without bank accounts—who are typically lower income—27% used them, up from 12% in 2009.

People without bank accounts are also more likely to rely on the cards for critical financial transactions. Almost 80% of unbanked households with prepaid cards used them to make everyday purchases, pay bills, or receive payments. Some even say the main reason they use prepaid cards is to “put money in a safe place” or “save money for the future.”

What these people might not know is they’re taking a risk, since prepaid cards don’t have the same legal protections as other kinds of plastic. Right now, if you lose your prepaid card, or if someone steals your card and uses it, you might not be able to recover all of your money, depending on the terms of your contract.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau wants to change that. On Thursday, the agency proposed new rules that would require prepaid cards to offer the same kind of fraud and lost-card protections that credit cards have, along with other kinds of protections.

“Consumers are increasingly relying on prepaid products to make purchases and access funds, but they are not guaranteed the same protections or disclosures as traditional bank accounts,” CFPB Director Richard Cordray said in a statement. “Our proposal would close the loopholes in this market and ensure prepaid consumers are protected whether they are swiping a card, scanning their smartphone, or sending a payment.”

The biggest deal of the new proposal is that it would limit your liability for fraudulent charges. Under the new rule, if your prepaid card were lost or stolen, the most you would pay for unauthorized charges would be $50, as is the case with credit cards.

The new rules would also require that financial institutions send you statements about your balance, offer you opportunities to resolve errors like double charges, and disclose more information about fees, on a form that looks like this. That’s important because prepaid cards sometimes charge high fees for activation, balance inquiries, and inactivity.

The proposal would also add protections to prepaid cards that allow users to overdraw into a negative balance, such as imposing limits on late fees.

The CFPB hasn’t implemented the changes yet. The proposed rule will be open for public comment for 90 days before the CFPB decides whether to issue a final rule.


MONEY Shopping

Walmart Pumps Up Black Friday and Thanksgiving Deals

Employees wear Santa hats as customers check out at a Wal-Mart Stores Inc. location ahead of Black Friday in Los Angeles, California, U.S., on Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2013.
A scene at Los Angeles-area Walmart the week before Thanksgiving and Black Friday 2013. Patrick T. Fallon—Bloomberg via Getty Images

"New Black Friday" is the term being used by Walmart for its Black Friday promotions—which actually start on Thanksgiving and last for five days.

On Tuesday, Walmart held a press conference to introduce what it’s calling the “New Black Friday.” Per the ongoing retail trend, the Black Friday sales start on Thanksgiving Thursday, and they’re hardly limited to a single day. “This year, we’re blowing it out with five days of deals in store and online,” Walmart chief merchandising officer Duncan Mac Naughton said. “We’ll have crazy low prices on the gifts our customers want.”

First things first: Is there anything really “new” about Walmart launching Black Friday deals on Thanksgiving, or about having sales stretch from Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday? On both accounts, the answer is no.

Last year, Walmart’s Black Friday included a staggered series of doorbuster deals, with some available at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving, others starting a couple hours later, and still others taking effect early on Friday morning. What’s more, Walmart and other retailers began trickling out pre-Black Friday sales the weekend before Thanksgiving if not earlier, plenty of other deals were available over the entire five-day Thanksgiving-Cyber Monday period, and the majority of these sale prices could be purchased online or in stores for the same exact price.

And guess what? This year, it’s essentially the same story. The hours have been tweaked for the 2014 version—special deals are available at 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving, then more starting at 6 a.m. the next morning—but it’s basically been the same plan since 2012.

On the one hand, spreading what are supposedly the best holiday sales out over five days—or, let’s face it, over the course of two full months—might make you wonder why it’s necessary to go shopping at all on a day traditionally devoted to family time rather than mall time. Walmart may hope that you physically go shopping in its stores on all five of those days, but that doesn’t mean you have to play along, especially not when the online option is available.

The traditional retail playbook for Black Friday featured a limited number of low-price “loss-leader” doorbuster deals that drew in the masses. Whether they were actually able to get hold of one of the few ultra-cheap items or not, these customers tended to shop for other merchandise while they were in the stores. Walmart has tried to eliminate some of the bait-and-switch involved in this tactic with a 1-Hour Guarantee, in which shoppers are assured they’ll get the doorbuster they want if they’re lined up at least one hour before the sale price is available. Yet overall, the strategy remains unchanged: Attract customers with what seem like amazing deals on select items, then cash in when these customers buy all sorts of things—some on sale, some at full price, and collectively very profitable.

With five days of deals, Walmart could have decided that its best doorbuster bargains would be available starting on Friday or Saturday—or any day other than Thanksgiving. But that’s not what the world’s biggest retailer has done. Like Target, Best Buy, and many others, Walmart is rolling out what seem to be its best deals on Thanksgiving itself, including a 50″ LED TV for $218 and kids’ “Frozen” pajamas for $4.50. There’s nothing stopping Walmart and other retailers from launching these kinds of sales on, say, the Saturday before Thanksgiving. Instead, they’re going with Thanksgiving, and because many of the very best deals are available in-store only, consumers who want to take advantage can’t stay home with their families and make purchases in front of a screen of their choice.

On the other hand, the season’s best prices don’t necessarily pop up on Thanksgiving or Black Friday, and, with the exception of a relatively small number of in-store-only doorbusters, the vast majority of deals are indeed available for web shoppers. As a dealnews post pointed out:

Data from previous years has shown that up to 70% of in-store Black Friday deals were also available online for the same price — or less! Because online sites, namely Amazon, will price match even the hottest in-store offers from brick-and-mortar retailers like Best Buy, Target, and Walmart, many feel pressure to release deals online as well.

The takeaway for consumers should be that it’s okay—more than okay—to stay home on Thanksgiving, and then to sleep in and stay home the following day as well. Yes, you might miss out on a select few deals by doing so. But hey, it’s really not that big of a deal.



Mall Will Fine Stores if They Don’t Open on Thanksgiving

Walden Galleria, Buffalo, NY.
Walden Galleria, Buffalo, NY. David Knopf—Alamy

Stores at one mall in upstate New York are being strong-armed into opening for business by 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving. Tenant retailers that don't get with the program will be fined.

Every day, the list of retailers and shopping centers opening up for “Black Friday” sales on Thanksgiving Day itself is growing. Despite the fact that Thanksgiving store hours don’t necessarily boost holiday season sales so much as displace them from one day to another, more and more retailers apparently feel compelled to open for business on the national holiday—often during prime dinner hours but sometimes much, much earlier than that. Toys R Us, for instance, is matching Best Buy and J.C. Penney with a 5 p.m. opening time on Thanksgiving—an hour earlier than Target and Macy’s—while RadioShack just announced that more than 3,000 of its stores will open at the freakishly unnecessary hour of 8 a.m.

In virtually all cases, retailers explain their decisions to open on Thanksgiving by pointing back at consumers—saying that shopping time on the holiday and “flexible” store hours are what today’s consumers demand. After all, the stores have a choice to not open on Thanksgiving, and that’s just what a couple dozen retailers have said they’ll do, often proudly proclaiming that they’re staying closed to allow their employees to spend the day relaxing with their families.

Yet at least in one case, a group of stores doesn’t really have much choice in the matter. Walden Galleria, a mall near Buffalo, N.Y., decided that this year, it would open at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day. That’s six hours earlier than last year, but still, other malls in the area are also opening at the earlier time.

What’s bound to bring Walden Galleria plenty of grief, however, is the heavy-handed way it is prodding tenant retailers into opening at 6 p.m.: They’re being threatened with fines if they don’t go along with the plan. It’s unclear how much the fine would be for failing to open by the assigned hour, but apparently the amount is substantial enough to compel some reluctant shop managers into coming to work that day.

“We’re just stuck following the rules, because if we didn’t, we’d be fined by the mall and being a small company, that’s substantial to us. We can’t just pay that. We have to stay open,” Shaun Deutsch, the manager of the mall’s Tee Shirt University store said, according to the local Time Warner Cable News station. “It’s been a lot different this year trying to find people to work. It’s not been easy. I’ve been forced to schedule myself because I can’t find anyone else, really, to help me out.”

The Boycott Shopping on Thanksgiving Day Facebook page took note of Walden Galleria’s nasty tactics and immediately placed the mall on its “Naughty” List—reserved for shopping outlets opening on Thanksgiving.

TIME Retail

How China’s ‘Singles’ Day’ Notched $9 Billion in Sales on Alibaba

China-Based Internet Company Alibaba Debuts On New York Stock Exchange
Founder and Executive Chairman of Alibaba Group Jack Ma (L) attends the company's initial price offering (IPO) at the New York Stock Exchange on September 19, 2014 in New York City. Andrew Burton—Getty Images

China's anti-Valentine's Day is the world's biggest day for online shopping

There are too many men in China.

That’s not the complaint of a love hungry young Chinese bachelor, but rather a statistical fact: by the year 2020, approximately 30 million more men will reach adulthood and enter the mating market than women. That may not make Chinese men happy, but it’s become a huge annual boost to China’s online retailers. How? Back in the early 1990s, Chinese singles created a sort of anti-Valentine’s Day called Singles’ Day, an annual celebration of bachelorhood or bachelorettehood taking place on November 11. (numerically, 11/11, the date of lonely “1s.”)

Singles’ Day has since evolved into a major shopping holiday, similar to Black Friday or Cyber Monday here in the U.S. And just as U.S. corporations like Hallmark adopted Valentine’s Day as an opportunity to boost sales, Chinese online retailers like Alibaba, a massive online marketplace, have embraced the cultural phenomenon that is Singles’ Day.

And that embrace comes with good reason. China’s Alibaba online marketplace alone reported over $9 billion in sales on Tuesday, skyrocketing past the company’s previous Singles’ Day record of about $5.9 billion, MarketWatch reports. Those are stunning numbers — by comparison, U.S. consumers spent just $1.2 billion online during Black Friday last year, according to ComScore, and another $2.29 billion during Cyber Monday, per Adobe Systems. (Factoring in physical store sales, total Black Friday weekend spending in the U.S. last year was a hair over $57 billion.) Those numbers come just two months after Alibaba went public in a $25 billion U.S.-based public offering, which has since hit the record books as the world’s biggest-ever IPO.

Singles’ Day is a holiday that speaks to the rapidly growing purchasing power of China’s middle class as well as a culture increasingly focused on the acquisition of material wealth. Accordingly, Singles’ Day has spawned a bevy of outlandish tales that redefine consumerism — one Chinese man, in preparation for Singles’ Day, proposed to his girlfriend in a heart-shaped ring of 99 iPhone 6s that cost about $82,000, reports the Nanfang. The woman rejected his proposal.

But the Singles’ Day windfall for Chinese retailers like Alibaba is also an accident of China’s one-child policy, instituted in 1979. The policy led many Chinese—who historically have often preferred to have boys—to take advantage of cheap ultrasound technology that has allowed women to determine the sex of their child in early pregnancy, offering them the option to continue or terminate pregnancies based on gender. The resulting gender imbalance has actually led many of China’s surplus men (and some women as well) to view Singles’ Day as a chance to celebrate what they hope could be the last day of singledom—hence much of the expensive buying, which is tied to gift-giving to woo significant others.

Alibaba, which acts as a bazaar for online merchants, has taken advantage to a remarkable extent of growing disposable incomes in China. This year, the company posted the largest initial public offering at $25 billion, launching off its rapid growth in China.

MONEY groceries

Lawsuit Could Force Upstart Condiment Brand to Hold the ‘Mayo’

In a lawsuit, food giant Unilever says that Just Mayo must change its labeling because it is not real mayonnaise. Jim Wilson—The New York Times/Redux

In a David vs. Goliath battle over sandwich spread labeling, things could get messy.

Unilever, the food giant that owns the Hellmann’s brand of Real Mayonnaise, recently filed a lawsuit against Hampton Creek, a well-funded startup backed by the likes of Bill Gates. The upstart company is being accused of false advertising because its sandwich spread brand Just Mayo contains no eggs and is therefore not real mayonnaise.

The Food & Drug Administration stipulates that any product calling itself mayonnaise must contain one or more “egg yolk-containing ingredients,” and Just Mayo is made with yellow peas instead of eggs. The rules also require genuine mayonnaise to be at least 65% vegetable oil—which is why Kraft’s Miracle Whip, which doesn’t meet that standard, is not a mayonnaise and is technically classified as a salad dressing.

Unilever is demanding that Just Mayo change its labels, and it is seeking unspecified compensatory damages. The “harm is impossible to quantify because of the difficulty of measuring lost good will and sales” for Hellmann’s and other mayonnaise makers, the suit states. The suit claims that the “Just Mayo false name” has “caused consumer deception and serious, irreparable harm to Unilever,” and that it’s “part of a larger campaign and pattern of unfair competition by Hampton Creek to falsely promote Just Mayo spread as tasting better than, and being superior to, Best Foods and Hellmann’s mayonnaise.”

On its website, Just Mayo states its spread is “outrageously delicious, better for your body, for your wallet, and for the planet.” In recent months, the product—which is vegan but isn’t marketed overtly as such—has appeared on the shelves of national retailers such as Whole Foods, Costco, and Walmart.

Putting taste aside because that’s a subjective matter, how can Just Mayo label itself mayonnaise when it’s not mayonnaise? Well, actually Just Mayo never says that it is mayonnaise. The product is always referred to as “mayo,” not “mayonnaise.” Hampton Creek maintains that there’s a difference, that it never claimed the product was genuine mayonnaise, and that the lawsuit is the result of Unilever and Hellmann’s feeling threatened in the marketplace. “We’re competing directly with a company that hasn’t had real competition in decades,” Hampton Creek CEO Josh Tetrick told the Wall Street Journal. “These things happen.”

Andrew Zimmern, the celebrity chef and Travel Channel personality who is quoted calling Just Mayo a “must have” on the Hampton Creek website, has created a petition against Big Mayo, asking others to join his effort to get Unilever to “Stop Bullying Sustainable Food Companies.” The online petition, which urges Unilever to drop the lawsuit and “focus more on creating a better world rather than preventing others from trying to do so,” has already registered more than 15,000 signatures. Look for the movement to spread.

MONEY Shopping

To Get the Best Deals, Skip Black Friday

The early bird gets the worm.
The early bird gets the worm. Abdolhamid Ebrahimi—Getty Images

Sure, there will be some great deals on Black Friday. But overall, the data indicates that the holiday season's best prices are to be found before Black Friday even arrives.

Black Friday, a.k.a. the day after Thanksgiving, has traditionally been embraced as the kickoff of the holiday shopping season. But now that the season has been expanded dramatically by retailers, which began airing holiday ads in September, with Black Friday-type deals appearing as early as November 1 and plenty of stores open on Thanksgiving, the idea that Black Friday is the “start” of anything is silly. In fact, the idea that Black Friday is the season’s most important day for retailers is waning, and there’s a decent argument to be made that deal-seeking consumers should be done with their shopping by the time Black Friday rolls around.

The Wall Street Journal has examined retail pricing data from Adobe Systems, which shows that last year, the season’s biggest price drops took place the weekend before Thanksgiving, and the best overall prices were to be had not on Black Friday but the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. This year, Adobe predicts that the season’s lowest prices will pop up on Thanksgiving itself, with an average discount of 24%. The deal-hunting experts at dealnews also anticipate that Thanksgiving will beat Black Friday and come out overall as the best day for low prices.

This isn’t to say that Black Friday won’t have some phenomenal bargains. Best Buy, Walmart, Target, Macy’s, and the rest of the field will surely roll out their share of doorbusters and huge one-day discounts. You’ll probably be able to scoop up off-brand TVs for a song, and the lucky few with the right combination of timing, endurance, and sharp elbows will assuredly snag other in-demand toys and electronics at deep discounts on Black Friday.

But they’ll have to battle traffic and crowds at the mall to do so. More importantly, based on the data presented above, it should be clear that Black Friday won’t necessarily have the best prices on everything. The pitfall shoppers should really try to avoid is heading to the mall on Black Friday for a few amazing doorbuster deals—and then sticking around and impulsively buying a bunch of other things at prices that are higher than you need to pay.

Combine that with the fact that the majority of sales on Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and the rest of the weekend are available online at the same prices, and that huge online sales are all but guaranteed for Cyber Monday at the start of the next week, and there’s considerable justification for staying away from the mall the entire time.

It may not be the most appealing idea, but there’s even some justification for getting a good portion of your holiday shopping done right now. The Wall Street Journal has been tracking prices of 10 top holiday gift items at Amazon and other major retailers, and what it found is that competitors are changing prices from day to day, sometimes dramatically so, and that some particularly good deals are appearing sooner than they normally do in the season. “This year retailers are trying to lengthen the season by dropping prices even earlier,” Tamara Gaffney, principal analyst of Adobe Digital Index, explained to the WSJ.

Dealnews agrees. “The truth is that the entire month of November will see blockbuster sales,” a post in late October explained. “So if you see the item you want at a price that suits your budget, by all means don’t wait to purchase that item later.”

Certainly, there’s no reason to feel like you must wait and physically go shopping on Black Friday.

TIME Retail

Toys ‘R’ Us to Open at 5 p.m. on Thanksgiving

Retailer unveils initiatives to make the shopping experience smoother during the busy holiday season.

Toys “R” Us will open its stores at 5 p.m. on Thanksgiving this year, the same time as last year and a sign the toy retailer is showing some restraint when it comes to the so-called “Black Friday creep.”

“We had incredibly positive feedback with customers who shopped with us on Thanksgiving last year,” Chief Merchandising Officer Richard Barry told Fortune.

The toy retailer, which generated $12.5 billion in sales for the latest fiscal year, and many other big-box retailers have been progressively opening their stores earlier and earlier each year for the critical Black Friday weekend. Many are now open on Thanksgiving itself, angling to get an important slice of consumer spending in a bid to better compete with online rivals that can generate sales at any time of the day. Several years ago, when brick-and-mortar retailers realized they were losing out on precious sales as consumers took to their computers to shop after their Thanksgiving feasts, they began to respond by opening their stores on the actual holiday.

Mayc’s and Kohl’s are among the retailers that have already announced earlier hours for the upcoming holiday season. And for years, Toys “R” Us has been a willing participate in this “Black Friday creep” game. It first inched into Thanksgiving Thursday in 2009 and pushed store opening times earlier in every subsequent year through 2013.

But Toys “R” Us says 5 p.m. is the right time to open its doors.

“We saw that people really enjoyed the early opening, and frankly we saw the sales on Black Friday itself being very strong,” Barry said. “There wasn’t as much pressure on that 10 p.m. or midnight time. It was more spread out and people had a more civilized shopping experience.”

Toys “R” Us on Thursday also unveiled a few other initiatives to make the shopping experience smoother during the busy holiday season. The company is placing employees, known as a “Guru for Play Stuff,” at the front of the store to help assist navigation. New express lanes will help speed up the checkout process for those buying two items or less, while employees will also have the ability to scan items in a jam-packed cart and provide a bar code that can be scanned to get them out the door quickly.

Barry said it was important to serve both customers, those with the overflowing carts and those with just a few items in their arms.

Toys “R” Us must perform well during the holiday season, as it generates roughly 40% of its annual sales during the final quarter of the year, which runs from November through January. The toy retailer battles big-box rivals like Wal-Mart Stores and Target, as well as online retailers like, for a slice of consumer spending in the $22 billion domestic toy business.

This article originally appeared on

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser