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Black Friday ads: Can deals serve as crowd control?

Black Friday ads for deals are being used by some retailers to control crowds and maximize shopper safety. The most effective Black Friday ads to manage in-store crowds may be to offer the same deals online. 

By Marcy BonebrightGuest blogger / November 28, 2013

Black Friday shoppers pour into the Valley River Center mall for the Midnight Madness sale, in Eugene, Ore. last year. Black Friday ads are being used by some retailers to make the Black Friday crowds more manageable.

Brian Davies/The Register-Guard/AP/File

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We've all heard the Black Friday horror stories about out of control crowds. But is it really dangerous to head to the store on Black Friday? What steps are retailers taking to protect customers and employees during the shopping holiday? Read on to see how merchants will try to maximize safety ā€” and profits ā€” during the Black Friday season.

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Black Friday Crowd Control Remains a Priority

Our recent survey revealed that more than half of our readers plan to shop online during Black Friday. This finding was backed up by a recent Nielson study, in which 46% of respondents said they'd do their Black Friday shopping online. All of this could add up to smaller crowds on shopping's biggest holiday.

Yet, despite these findings, the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) released a document urging retailers to put safety first on Black Friday. Citing the trampling death of a Walmart worker during a Black Friday sale five years ago, the press release implores merchants to enforce crowd safety measures like providing "on-site trained security personnel or police officers," "not allowing additional customers to enter the store when it reaches its maximum occupancy level," and "not blocking or locking exit doors."

OSHA revises and sends out its crowd control tips on an annual basis in an effort to protect retail workers, who are the most likely to be injured by rushing crowds. "The busy shopping season should not put retail workers at risk of being injured or killed," said Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health.

Retailers Have Other Safety Tricks Up Their Sleeves

Implementing OSHA's crowd control measures is just one way retailers can prevent Black Friday mob madness. The pursuit of higher profits could actually lead to a safer Black Friday in some cases, as merchants implement more subtle forms of crowd control in the name of bigger sales.

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