Toys R Us on Monday said it will open its doors at 5 p.m. (local time) on Thanksgiving and remain open through 11 p.m. on Black Friday, for 30 straight hours of shopping, though its Babies R Us stores nationwide will be closed on Thanksgiving, opening at 8 a.m. on Black Friday.
Some deals are available even before Thanksgiving, according to a company press release. The company’s annual holiday catalog, "The Ultimate Guide to Play," features savings on hundreds of the year’s hottest toys and brands, including Imaginext, Doc McStuffins and Paw Patrol, that are valid through Saturday, Nov. 18, including a FREE $10 Toys R Us gift card on purchases of $75 or more. Through Nov. 11, the toy retailer is also offering 15% off in-store purchases, with exclusions, to customers who show a valid military ID.
The retailer also announced a "new and improved Price Match Promise" for toys or baby items advertised at a lower price, and will donate $1 to the Marine Toys For Tots as well. Toys R Us is limiting its price-matching policy, however, suspending it during the peak Thanksgiving holiday weekend, including on Black Friday.
In announcing its Thanksgiving Day hours, Toys R Us noted that last year some 100 million people shopped brick and mortar stores during Thanksgiving weekend, according to the National Retail Federation. As America’s most prominent toy retailer, Toys R Us has little wiggle room this holiday season in light of its bankruptcy filing last month, which has had some suppliers balking, although the toy retailer claims to have regained full supplier backing.
"The timing of all of this could not have been worse, as the company is in the process of building holiday inventory," Toys R Us CEO Dave Brandon said in the bankruptcy filing last month, adding that Toys R Us generates 40% of its annual revenue in the weeks before Christmas.
Last year, the retailer had a strong start to the holidays, but in the weeks following Black Friday it faced sluggish sales and intense promotional activity. In the end, the company's all-important fourth quarter consolidated net sales fell $192 million year-over-year to $4.66 billion, due mainly to a decline in same-stores sales and store closures in the U.S., including the company’s Times Square flagship store in New York.
There was decidedly more competition to contend with in toys last season, not least from Amazon, whose toy sales were some $4 billion, about 20% of the market, according to a client note from global investment banking firm Jeffries analyst Stephanie Wissink. More than half of those came during fewer than 60 selling days, and more than a third (35%) took place in December alone. As overall sales in the category surged last year, Macy’s added toys to its off-price Backstage pop-ups over the holidays, Hudson’s Bay added toys to its holiday merchandise and Kohl’s brought in the popular American Girl doll line for the season.
That makes any added shopping crucial for the retailer, even on Thanksgiving, which research from deals site Best Black Friday shows is losing favor among more Americans than ever this year.
Perhaps that's also why Toys R Us has limited its price-matching policy this year, suspending it during those peak shopping days around Thanksgiving and Black Friday. "We think it's great that Toys R Us will donate $1 to Toys for Tots every time they match a competitor's price," Best Black Friday co-owner Phillip Dengler told Retail Dive in an email. "We also think it's great they will match Amazon. However, if you take a look at the 'We don't match' [disclaimer], it says, 'Any competitor’s advertised store or online pricing for Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday.' So essentially Toys R Us will not match many of the best prices this season on toys and games."
The challenge from Amazon in particular is poised to intensify in the category. While busy consumers increasingly turn to e-commerce to get their holiday shopping done, Amazon chugs along assisted by Alexa, which was enabled last season to help its Prime members shop for toys. As a result, the e-commerce giant is poised to benefit even more this year from the now-bankrupt toy retailer’s struggles, Jeffries analysts said.