- Walmart is a major destination for Black Friday shopping.
- The retailer started its Black Friday in-store event at 6 p.m. local time on Thanksgiving Day, November 28.
- We visited two Walmart stores on Black Friday, on opposite ends of the country, and the experiences were completely different.
- While one store was somewhat busy, and the other completely empty, neither was as chaotic as we expected from a Walmart on Black Friday.
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Walmart is notorious for its Black Friday chaos.
The retailer – already famous for “everyday low prices” – is known to ramp up its deals on the holiday season. This year, Walmart’s in-store Black Friday shopping event began at 6 p.m. local time on Thanksgiving Day, November 28.
However, as more people shift toward shopping online, Black Friday as we once knew it has started to change. The massive crowds and lines that once characterised the national shopping holiday are dying down on the famed day itself. The real event starts the day before, and customers shop online through the weekend all the way to Cyber Monday.
Walmart has also faced backlash for its labour practices, especially its decision to keep stores open on Thanksgiving without providing workers with overtime pay. Many shoppers expressed their outrage on Twitter, threatening to boycott the store for Black Friday in protest of the lack of compensation for employees working during the holiday.
We visited two Walmart stores, on opposite ends of the country – one in Framingham, Massachusetts, and one in Bellevue, Washington – to see how the shopping experiences would compare. The store in Bellevue was practically a ghost town, and our experiences at both stores demonstrated how the infamous mayhem of Black Friday is dying down – or at least has moved elsewhere.
Here was our experience:
On the East Coast, we headed to a Walmart in Framingham, Massachusetts. A sign in the store said it was open from 1:00 a.m. to 10 p.m. ET on Black Friday.
We arrived at around 9:30 a.m. ET and found the parking lot rather full.
Inside, the store had a fair amount of people, though it wasn’t anything too wild.
There were various deals throughout the store, most notably in these discount bins near the front of the store.
In the clothing section, things were shockingly cheap. We picked up a few items from here.
But for the most part, this section was pretty empty.
Surprisingly, the many toy aisles in this Walmart were, for the most part, pretty empty as well.
The story was the same in the arts-and-crafts and fabric sections as well as the sporting-goods section.
Pretty soon, it became clear what everyone was shopping for at Walmart that day: televisions.
Though the store was not too crowded overall, we had to watch our steps so as not to crash into a cart with a massive TV monitor popping out of it. Carts like these could easily be found in multiple areas of the store.
It seemed like everyone came to Walmart to pick up a TV that day. Every other purchase seemed like an afterthought.
And Walmart seemed prepared to cater to the high demand.
The huge boxes containing the screens were being unloaded throughout the store in sections that were not even meant for electronics regularly, like in the clothing areas.
In some sections, the items still looked like they had yet to be fully unloaded and unpacked.
The electronics section itself was the most crowded section of the store. Here, we found a bunch of employees on hand helping out different shoppers.
There was somewhat of a variety in the types of TVs that people were buying. We saw shoppers representing brands like Vizio …
… as well as Samsung.
But the Philips 65-inch 4K Ultra HD model was the most popular by far.
Signs indicated that these items were going for $US278 each. They seemed to be getting unloaded at a ridiculously fast pace.
We checked Walmart’s website for this item, and it seemed to be out of stock online, which might have explained the item’s popularity in the store.
Overall, it was clear that electronics — specifically televisions — were the winners in Walmart this Black Friday.
Though we didn’t buy any electronics, we left the store happy with some of the smaller purchases we had made.
Overall, the Walmart in Massachusetts, though bustling in the electronics section, wasn’t as crazy as what we expected for a major store on Black Friday morning.
On the West Coast, we arrived at the Walmart in Bellevue at just before 8:00 a.m. PT. The parking lot was stunningly empty.
Inside the store was no different. There was nary a soul in sight.
We meandered, confused, through the empty aisles. Where were the sales? And the people?
Aisles were blocked off by haphazardly placed bins of product, and cleaning equipment was left out in the open.
It seemed to us that there were more employees than customers in the store.
There was no one in the aisles, as all the sale items had been placed into sales bins or stacked into piles out in the open.
There were some items with prices on the bins they were in, but these sales bins didn’t really give an idea of how much of a discount was being offered.
It soon became clear that the only major sales in the store were either for toys or TVs.
We spoke with several shoppers about their experience. Leesa, who asked that her last name be withheld, told us that this was her first Black Friday shopping trip.
She had picked up a toy for her boyfriend’s daughter and was browsing the puzzle section, saying there was “not a whole lot going on.”
Amanda, who also requested we leave out her last name, told us that she’d just happened to wake up early and decided to see what was available.
She had also picked up a few toys for her kids, but she seemed unsure about her purchase, saying, “I don’t know if I’m going to get any of this.”
One major reason was that none of them had visible prices. Though some items were clearly marked, many were not.
Even in the electronics section, where the majority of the deals were supposed to be, customers weren’t really buying anything.
All in all, our Black Friday visit to Bellevue felt like a normal trip to Walmart.
Bellevue is a suburb of Seattle, where Amazon’s headquarters are. It’s possible that this area just doesn’t have that many Walmart shoppers, as many Amazon employees and other tech workers might prefer to shop online. But our trip was also indicative of a larger trend, at least in this part of the country: Black Friday — as in the day after Thanksgiving — is no longer the foot-traffic superstar it used to be.
- Read more:
- Shoppers are set to spend a record-setting $US4.4 billion online on Thanksgiving Day, despite Instagram and Facebook outages
- Thanksgiving is becoming one of the most popular days to shop online
- Black Friday is dying, and the rise of Cyber Monday may be to blame
- The best Black Friday store sales of 2019 – from big-box retailers like Best Buy and Target to startups like Casper and Brooklinen
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