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What's Toys R Us like at 1 a.m. on Christmas Eve?

Holiday shoppers wait in line outside Toys R' US in New York.

Come all ye procrastinators!

That’s the Christmas carol at a number of retailers this year. Toys R Us, for example, has kept many of its stores open 24 hours a day since Saturday (that’s 87 hours straight). Its flagship store in Times Square has been open 24/7 since December 1st

At 1 a.m. this Tuesday, the Times Square Toys R Us is nearly as bustling as you’d expect at noon, and it usually stays that way till around 4am.

Romeo Thomas, who has picked up some crayons and legos for his daughter, says with his retail job, these are the most convenient hours for him. Also, “ I’m always always a late shopper, I procrastinate a lot cause I really don’t know what I want.”

It’s not that there are a more procrastinators this year, it’s that there was actually less time. Literally, there were six fewer shopping days between Black Friday and Christmas this year because Thanksgiving came so late. “Retailers are having to deal with that,” says Theresa Williams, professor of marketing at the Kelley School of Business. “That the reason they’re extending hours, and not necessarily offering deeper promotions.”

Consumers have responded – Toys R Us says consumer traffic reaches a crescendo in the days just before Christmas.

Kohls, Kmart and Target among others have extended hours too. According to the National Retail Federation, the holiday season accounts for 40% of some retailers’ revenue.

“Consumers have indicated that they plan to spend less this year on holiday gifts,” says NRF’s Kathy Grannis . “So the economy has certainly put retailers in a mode where they have to compete and these longer hours are certainly one of the ways they look to do so.”

Williams says Toys R Us – the leader of the hours extension with its 87 hour open pre-Christmas marathon - has an extra challenge this year. “They didn’t feel there was a must have toy this year,” she says. “Business has not been terrific , they’ve gone through a CEO change and of course that transformation is sometimes difficult, but they are optimistic.”

Of course, all of these stores being open longer means someone has to work longer or at odd hours. Anthony Hardwick* created a petition several years to ask Target to reconsider opening on Thanksgiving Day for the sake of its employees.

“It’s really upsetting that we’ve reached a certain level in this country where if you are a low wage worker at one of these jobs, our society has said you don’t deserve a holiday,” he says. “The only thing that matters is us getting our shiny junk in a timely fashion.”

For its part, Toys R Us says that in “select markets”, its employees are paid a premium for working overnight hours.

But Williams, at the Kelley School, says many people she’s spoken too haven’t minded. “We don’t have data, of course,” she points out, “but anecdotally speaking most of these hours are filled by part time, so the folks I talked to were grateful to have more payroll in their pockets at this time.”

The 24 shopping marathon is coming to an end tonight. Toys R Us, Kmart and Target are closing at 10pm tonight (though some Targets will close at 9 p.m.). Kohls, Macy’s and Best Buy close at 6 p.m. Walmart superstores close at 8. 


CORRECTION: In an earlier version of this story we misidentified Anthony Hardwick. The text has been corrected.

About the author

Sabri Ben-Achour is a reporter for Marketplace, based in the New York City bureau. He covers Wall Street, finance, and anything New York and money related.
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