Walmart will open 24 hours on Black Friday to ease crowd crush
A few days after the National Retail Federation issued its crowd-control guidelines for the holiday shopping season, Walmart announced its own solution.
The retailer will keep its 24-hour schedule through Thanksgiving, it announced today, meaning that shoppers won't line up outside and rush the doors to get Black Friday deals.
A temporary Walmart employee in Long Island, NY, was killed during a crowd stampede in 2008.
According to the Associated Press, the world's largest retailer says day-after-Thanksgiving sales will begin at 5 a.m. Nov. 27, but most U.S. stores will be open 24 hours to prevent a mad dash. The announcement doesn't affect most of Wal-Mart's Supercenters, which are already open 24 hours. Spokesman David Tovar said the change affects about 800 stores that aren't currently open round-the-clock.
Instead lining up outside Walmart, customers can gather in different areas of the store, waiting for the deals to begin, Tovar said.
"If you've got a 200,000-square-foot store, people will be dispersed throughout the store instead of lined up outside the store," Tovar said.
Wal-Mart was required to create improved crowd management plans for all its 92 New York stores as part of a deal with prosecutors that avoided criminal charges in the trampling death.
It also was required to set up a $400,000 victims' compensation fund, and give $1.5 million to social services programs and nonprofit groups. The agreement included no admission of guilt by Wal-Mart.
As part of the settlement, Wal-Mart consulted with safety experts who've worked with the Super Bowl, Olympics, major concerts and national political conventions to come up with safety plans for each of its stores. Crowd-management staff should make sure people are orderly as they enter the store, while maps may be provided with locations of Black Friday deals, according to the safety recommendations.
The plan calls for the hottest items — marked-down TVs, toys and laptop computers, for example — to be placed far apart to prevent big crowds from gathering.
Each store-specific plan looked at how customers approach and enter the store, how they check out and leave, as well as how customers move around the store and near the biggest bargains.
AnnArbor.com is compiling a list of local store hours for Black Friday and the holiday season. It will be regularly updated, but you can see the most recent version here.