Protests by organized labor failed to materialize in a meaningful way at Walmart stores over the weekend and the retailer went on to achieve record results.
Walmart employed a three tiered promotional strategy over the holiday weekend, offering deals at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day and at 5 a.m. on Black Friday. By 9 a.m. Friday morning the company had issued a statement claiming it had the best ever Black Friday event with larger crowds than the prior year when stores began offering specials at 10 p.m. and midnight. The company said it served 22 million customers on Thanksgiving Day and during the peak traffic period from 8 p.m. to midnight processed roughly 10 million transactions. Walmart said it sold 1.8 million towels, 1.3 million televisions, 1.3 million dolls and 250,000 bicycles between 8 p.m. Thanksgiving Day and the following morning.
"We had very safe and successful Black Friday events at our stores across the country and heard overwhelmingly positive feedback from our customers," said Walmart U.S. president and CEO Bill Simon.
Heading into the weekend, groups supported by organized labor attempted to spoil Walmart’s plans by encouraging workers to walk off their jobs and by staging protests at select stores. The union activities received considerable media exposure, but ultimately proved to be isolated and non-disruptive to sales.
"Only 26 protests occurred at stores last night and many of them did not include any Walmart associates," Simon was quoted as saying in the press release distributed Friday morning. "In addition, the company did not experience the walk-offs that were promised by the UFCW (United Food and Commercial Workers.) 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.
Later on Friday, Walmart VP of corporate communications, David Tovar, further derided the efforts of the UFCW and a group called OUR Walmart, claiming the number of protests the groups reported were grossly exaggerated.
"It was proven last night – and again today – that the OUR Walmart group doesn’t speak for the 1.3 million Walmart associates," Tovar said. "We had our best Black Friday ever and OUR Walmart was unable to recruit more than a small number of associates to participate in these made for TV events. Press reports are now exposing what we have said all along – the large majority of protesters aren’t even Walmart workers."
Faced with the prospect of disgruntled employees at a pivotal time of the year, Walmart took several actions designed to make working this holiday season more rewarding. The company extended the 10% discount on general merchandise that it normally offers employees to food items purchased between November 9 and January 1. In addition, to recognize employees who helped serve customers during Black Friday events, the company provided an additional 10% discount on an entire basket of goods in additional to increased holiday pay rates.