CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- One minute before opening, an urgent message to employees rang throughout the store, "Everybody in place." The curtains rise, rather the doors open and the season's first holiday shoppers descended upon the aisles of Toys "R" Us.
Employees of the kid-wonderland retailer have been preparing for Thanksgiving shoppers for about 10 days, said General Manager Sue Rader.
"We know exactly where everything is," Rader said.
The store's strategy is to let 50 people in at a time. Rader said she keeps her eye on the store and at check out to decide when to let in more shoppers.
Arrows taped to the store's floors were meant to guide shoppers to specialty areas, such as the electronics section. Larger items and displays were used as barricades, turning the store into a labyrinth of toys. "Line forms here," read signs strategically placed throughout the store.
It didn't take long for customers to take their places and for congestion to build. Some ran excitedly through aisles, grabbing one item and making a beeline for the next. Others took a more contemplative approach, carefully considering the buffet of jewelry kits, action figures and Furbies (yes, they're back, and this time they hatch). Then there were the all-business shoppers, lists in hand focusing only on the end-prizes.
Toys "R" Us opened on Thanksgiving last year, Rader said, but three hours later. The store opened its doors at 5 p.m. Thursday, and it will stay that way until 11 p.m. today.
"We've never opened this early, but it's kind of exciting, because I don't think we're going to be as tired throughout the night," Rader said.