Wal-Mart Stores Inc. will keep most of its U.S. locations open overnight on Thanksgiving to ease the crowding that led to the trampling death of a store employee on Black Friday a year earlier.
The retail giant said it was hoping the extended hours would prevent long lines from forming because shoppers would be able to wait inside the stores before the chain's day-after-Thanksgiving specials go on sale at 5 a.m.
Black Friday, so named because retailers used to view it as the day they went into the black financially, is notoriously one of the most hectic shopping days of the holiday season, with shoppers pushing and jostling for deals on electronics, apparel and toys. Last year, a mob of bargain-hungry shoppers stormed a Wal-Mart in Valley Stream, N.Y., trampling temporary worker Jdimytai Damour.
Some industry watchers are worried that crowds could be even more aggressive this year, as frugal shoppers have indicated they will rely heavily on discounts and specials.
In addition to keeping stores open throughout Thanksgiving night, Wal-Mart said it had store-specific safety plans in place for the Nov. 27 sales.
The Bentonville, Ark.-based chain is also planning to spread out its deals around its stores to better control crowds, company spokeswoman Daphne Moore said.
"Customer and associate safety is a top priority for us, and this year is no different," she said.