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How Early Can They Go? Shoppers Shift Black Friday Strategies


Last week, big retailers including Target, Best Buy and Macy’s made 4 a.m. Black Friday shopping passé with midnight openings. This week, they’re the latecomers.

Toys R Us announced Monday that it would open its stores for Black Friday at 9 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day. That’s an hour earlier that the toy chain opened its doors last year. It’s also an hour before next-earliest competitor Wal-Mart plans to open at 10 p.m. Toys R Us also plans to offer coupon booklets to the first 100 shoppers in line, as well as a second round of door-buster deals at 5 a.m. for late shoppers.

While the other stores are more broadly competing to get you in line, Toys R Us is likely also trying to appeal to its core customers – parents, who may not be as keen on leaving their kids at home in the wee hours or dragging them along to wait in line, says Randy Allen, an associate dean at Cornell University’s Johnson Graduate School of Management. “You’ve got some built-in babysitters with family there for Thanksgiving,” she says. (A Toys R Us spokesman says the hours allow the store to better accommodate ongoing crowds and traffic.)

As we’ve previously reported, the shift toward earlier Black Friday hours could prompt stores to be more competitive on door-busters. But as stores like Wal-Mart and Toys R Us announce even earlier hours, shoppers may find the best strategy is one of divide and conquer, Allen says.

She suggests friends or family split into early and late shifts to grab the most deals – and some sleep, too. “With this many rounds of deals, you don’t necessarily need to be there early to be first in line,” she says.


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About Pay Dirt

  • Pay Dirt examines the millions of consumer decisions Americans make every day: What to buy, how much to pay, whether to rave or complain. Lead written by Quentin Fottrell, the blog examines these interactions, providing readers with news, insight and tips on shopping, spending, customer service, and companies that do right – and wrong – by their customers. Send items, questions and comments to or tweet @SMPayDirt.