Wal-Mart's U.S. CEO defends early Thanksgiving Day opening

November 29, 2013: 10:43 AM ET
Wal-Mart defends Thanksgiving opening
NEW YORK (CNNMoney)

Wal-Mart opened its stores at 6 p.m. this year, two hours earlier than last year and smack in the middle of most families' Thanksgiving dinners. So what does one of its top executives have to say?

CNNMoney spoke with Wal-Mart's (WMT) U.S. CEO Bill Simon.

Is shopping the kind of family tradition Wal-Mart wants to perpetuate?

Simon: Our job is to try to anticipate what the customer wants... Having families out, children in the building... gives it a different feel. And it's one that's in line with who we are at Wal-Mart. It feels a lot better in the evening than it did when it was early in the morning [on Black Friday].

Related: Thanksgiving openings are the new normal

Do you wrestle with the moral implications of [opening on Thanksgiving]?

Simon: We had planned not to move [the opening time] this year, but the market moved... I have a hard time imagining it could be 4:00. Let's hope that it doesn't move.

Are you willing to draw a line?

Simon: "We've seen about as early as it can go. It's hard to imagine that it can move much more."

Simon said he worked throughout most of the night, staying up by sipping coffee and downing a Monster energy drink. He noted that the company provided the 900,000 employees who worked on Thursday with a hot meal and extra pay -- plus a 25% corporate in-store discount for their own holiday shopping.

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