Wal-Mart to keep stores open to ease Black Friday

November 11, 2009 1:33:41 PM PST
Wal-Mart Stores said Wednesday it will keep its stores open 24 hours and take new crowd-control measures Thanksgiving weekend after a temporary employee was trampled to death in a Black Friday rush last year.

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.

Federal safety regulators cited Wal-Mart for inadequate crowd management after the Nov. 28, 2008, death of a temporary employee at a Long Island, N.Y., store. A crowd of shoppers broke down the store's doors, trapping employee Jdimytai Damour, who died of asphyxiation.

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.

Wal-Mart said in a statement that it consulted with safety experts in the sports and entertainment industries to develop store-specific plans for all U.S. locations. Each 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, Wal-Mart said.

A spokesman for the Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer didn't immediately return a call for comment Wednesday.

Shoppers around the country line up early outside stores on the day after Thanksgiving in the annual bargain-hunting ritual known as Black Friday. It got that name because it traditionally was considered the day stores broke into profitability for the full year.

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