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Toys R Us CEO makes a (strong) case for being open on Thanksgiving Day: 'It's what you do'

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Toys R Us CEO David Brandon on being open for Thanksgiving:
Toys R Us CEO David Brandon on being open for Thanksgiving: "It's what you do." - ()

We've all seen those GEICO ads as part of the company's "It's what you do" campaign. (And I'll take The Final Countdown over Peter Pan as the best if I get to pick.)

I couldn't help but think of those ads when I asked Dave Brandon, the new CEO of Toys R Us, about his plan to be open on Thanksgiving Day.

It’s a big issue right now.

There's a movement to slow down Black Friday — and some want to make it mandatory for all retailers to be closed on Thanksgiving, too. In fact, Washington State-based REI got a lot of positive publicity (read: trending on social media) for announcing its stores will be closed on both days.

So as the leader of one of the biggest global retailers, Brandon could push the issue. He never gave it a thought.

Toys R Us will open at 5 p.m. on Thanksgiving.

It's what they do.

"I wouldn't describe it as a difficult decision," he said in a one-on-one interview with NJBIZ (read about all his plans for the company, here). "There are certain businesses and business models in our country that are called upon to satisfy consumer needs because we're all about satisfying our customers.

"If our customers want to shop in the afternoon and evening of Thanksgiving, then we should be providing that opportunity because that's the promise we make to our customers."

Some might say Thanksgiving Day sales are an effort for Brandon to improve sales at the struggling Wayne-based global toy seller.

Brandon, who took over earlier this summer, sees it as just part of doing business in the toy industry this time of year.

"There are certain segments of our world that are required to be who they are and do what they do to satisfy their customers," he said, while rattling off other industries working that day, such as hotels, airlines and caterers.

Geoffrey the Giraffe.
Geoffrey the Giraffe. - ()

"I look at this that it's a decision that's based on both the reaction to a competitive environment. If other people are going to be open, you better be open to be competitive. But it's also what our customers are telling us. And they vote with their wallet and some of them want to shop on that occasion."

Supporters of REI will point to employee happiness — and say such decisions are just one of the reasons the company repeatedly finds itself on Best Places to Work lists.

For REI, it's part of an 'opt-outside' campaign that, conveniently, fits in with its products. 

And while Walmart, Target, Best Buy and other national chains are opening on Thanksgiving, critics can point to those staying closed, including Dallas-based GameStop, which certainly counts on holiday sales as a big part of its business model.

As someone who spent more than 15 years in the daily newspaper business — someone who worked every holiday and every weekend — I understand Brandon's decision.

Time off is great. But some business have those days picked for them rather than the other way around.

Brandon, the former CEO of Domino’s Pizza, knows this scenario all too well.

"I used to be in the pizza business," he said. "And you order pizza on a Friday night and a Saturday night and on Super Bowl Sunday. You order pizza when you are partying and having a good time, those are the peak periods. I can't go to the organization and say, 'Listen, we're going to close down all the times everyone else is partying so we can go party with them.' "

It's what you do.

"We've got to be who we are, just like airlines and hotels and other service-oriented organizations," Brandon said. "For me, this is not a difficult thing."

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