Black Friday shoppers in the US (and Canada) could set a record today, as the post-Thanksgiving annual retail rush is on.
Here in New York, just before midnight on Thanksgiving evening, I observed massive line-ups at the corner of Broadway and Lafayette for Adidas and Best Buy on the northeast corner of that intersection, and smaller queues starting at the southeast corner for Hollister, H&M, Uniqlo and, across the street, American Eagle and Victoria's Secret. Police, using bullhorns, tried to get the crowds to disperse by announcing, "Stores don't open until 8 A.M." — but the shoppers, mostly in their late teens and 20's it appeared, were undeterred.
All eyes, in particular, are on Walmart today, which has been downplaying the threat of OUR Walmart-organized employee strike action at its stores across the US, which are being organized online and shared on Twitter via the #walmartstrikers, #changewalmart and #makingchange hashtags, and on Tumblr.
An anti-consumer movement, #buynothing, is urging people to forgo the Black Friday frenzy in a pushback on Walmart and other retailers who opened on Thanksgiving — or just anti-consumerism in general. Business Insider shared one ugly incident at a Walmart store in Georgia, while other violent incidents include nine arrests in Paramount, California, and two people being shot outside a Walmart in Tallahassee, Florida.
America's biggest retailer released a time-lapse video, at top, showing customers shopping last night in a "free-for-all" at stores in Homosassa, Fla., New Smryna, Fla., and Lake City, S.C. between 6pm-Midnight, EST, on Thanksgiving Day. According to reports, across the US some striking members of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) refused to go on duty on Thanksgiving evening as the company released guidelines for how to avoid any ugliness and keep the peace. Salon.com cited the UFCW's announcement of 1,000 protests (out of 4,000 US stores) in 100 cities 46 states, while Walmart's press release about its best Black Friday ever disputed that figure:
“We had very safe and successful Black Friday events at our stores across the country and heard overwhelmingly positive feedback from our customers,” Walmart US president and CEO Bill Simon said. In response to the UFCW’s planned protests, Simon said, “Only 26 protests occurred at stores last night and many of them did not include any Walmart associates.” In addition, the company did not experience the walk-offs that were promised by the UFCW. “We estimate that less than 50 associates participated in the protest nationwide. In fact, this year, roughly the same number of associates missed their scheduled shift as last year,” Simon said.
Walmart.com president and CEO Joel Anderson had told Wired he welcomes "showrooming" this Black Friday — customers taking out their smartphones to compare prices, with Walmart releasing its a mobile app this year, and its Cyber Monday sales kicking off Saturday. Mobile comparison-shopping certainly didn't deter sales, with about 22 million customers, nearly 10 million register transactions and almost 5,000 items sold per second since 8:00 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day:
During the 8 p.m. event, customers filled shopping carts with gaming consoles, video games, DVDs, Furbys, fashion dolls, board games and Crock-Pots.
At 10 p.m. it was all about electronics, including big-screen TVs, tablets, laptops and digital cameras. Customers were particularly excited about Walmart’s “guaranteed” items, and the turnout for the iPad 2, Emerson 32” LCD TV and LG Blu-ray player was amazing.
Customers appreciated this historic offering knowing they were guaranteed to put one of these gifts under their trees. Since its events began at 8 p.m., Walmart sold more than 1.8 million towels, 1.3 million televisions, 1.3 million dolls and 250,000 bicycles.
“I’m so proud of what our more than 1.3 million associates have done to prepare and execute our Black Friday plans, giving our customers a great start to their Christmas shopping season,” said Simon. “The work of our associates is even more impressive when you consider they served approximately 22 million customers on Thursday."
Overseas, meanwhile, the company's not concerned about a retail crush but the renewed specter of bribery allegations, which slammed its Mexico business in April (and remains open) — this time Walmart's India joint venture with Bharti, which has just suspended its CFO and others over bribery allegations.