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Black Friday liveblog: Online deals or brick-and-mortar sales?

Sales tax may be hurting Amazon's bottom line, but overseas, online sales have been booming on similar shopping holidays.

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The rush to purchase toys and electronics, however, might better be characterized as obligation, not love. CNN quotes New Yorker Shay Brown, who was visiting relatives in Pittsburgh and decided to hit Walmart.

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"We could have been sitting around enjoying each others' company, but instead we had to rush here to get the deals," said Brown, who CNN notes was shopping for DVDs.

[Update 9:40 am] A press release from Walmart reports that the retailer experienced the best Black Friday ever. Starting at 8 p.m., Walmart sold more than 1.8 million towels, 1.3 million televisions, 1.3 million dolls, and 250,000 bicycles.

Of course, we won't know for a few days if the Thanksgiving openings increased demand, or simply shifted sales to slightly earlier in the season. And even if retailers do see an improved bottom line this year, their success may have little to do with when they opened: According to the Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index, the share of American households who believe that the economy is improving is now at 37 percent, the highest since March 2002.

-- Eoin O'Carroll

Updated 7:40 a.m.

On Thursday evening, the Black Friday skirmishes began between Walmart and some of its employees.

Workers staged walkouts in stores in Dallas, Miami, and Kenosha, Wis., according to OUR Walmart, an employee group that's been agitating for better wages, benefits, and work schedules for more than a year. Workers also went on strike San Leandro, Calif., Clovis, N.M., Ocean City, Md., Orlando and St. Cloud, Fla., and Baton Rouge, La., The Nation reported early this morning.

Numerous Twitter posts suggest that overnight protests also hit other Walmart stores, as supporters of the strikers posted photos and messages online. In Wichita, Kan., about a dozen protesters gathered around signs and banners such as "Support Walmart Workers" and "People Before Profits."

"Denied entry to Walmart! Why try to silence us? Maybe because they're scared of us!" one strike supporter tweeted from Denver.

How extensive these protests are – and how many workers are involved in the protests – are not immediately clear.

The larger and more visible protests are just beginning to get under way this morning.

OUR Walmart's website lists nine cities where Walmart rallies will take place. The first one took place Thursday evening in Miami. But the rest of the events get under way early this morning, starting at 5:30 a.m. (6:30 a.m EST) in Chicago. That will be quickly followed by a protest at 6 a.m. (7 a.m. EST) in Milwaukee; and then roll out in Washington, D.C. (7:30 a.m. EST); Dallas; Los Angeles; Sacramento, Calif.; San Francisco; and Seattle. 

Given its nearly 4,000 stores, these job actions are unlikely to stop – or even slow – Walmart's Black Friday push. The strikers appear to be aiming for visibility rather than confrontation.

"We also ask you to conduct all actions in support of the strikers peacefully, in a way to permit access to the stores and disrupt Walmart operations and worker productivity no more than necessary to express and demonstrate support for strikers and call on Walmart to change," OUR Walmart says on its website.

The workers group has the support of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union and is gaining support from the loosely organized Occupy Wall Street movement in some cities.

Walmart dismisses the movement as the creation of UFCW agitators.

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