Holiday shopping starts Thursday evening
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.
Nikki Linville, of Julian, got in line at the toy store around 3 p.m. with plans of getting the good deals on smaller items. While the 26-year-old mother said she doesn't prefer shopping on Thanksgiving Day, her husband planned to get a television at another store close by.
"I said, 'since we have to get that, I'll just go on out, too,' " Linville said.
Jennifer Sutherland, of St. Albans, was waiting in line for two hot ticket items: the Wii U and Kindle Fire for her son and daughter.
"You're saving over $150 just on those two items," Sutherland said.
An early Thanksgiving diner, Sutherland didn't mind coming out earlier. But, Sutherland was uncertain about Black Friday.
"It gets earlier and earlier every year," Sutherland said. "I probably won't go out in the morning."
With consumer demand increasing, stores are opening their doors earlier each year. There were several reports of controversy throughout the country over department stores and big box retailers opening their doors the night before Black Friday. But, customers lined up despite.
"As you can see with the line outside, this is what the consumer wants," Rader said. "We're ready to deliver." Reach Rachel Molenda at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-5102.