by Max Brantley
The New York Times says Wal-Mart and other retailers have new crowd control plans to prevent repeats of deadly crushes as shoppers mass for Christmas season-opening sales the day after Thanksgiving.
The most significant change at Wal-Mart is that the majority of its discount stores (as opposed to its Supercenters) will open Thanksgiving morning at 6 a.m. and stay open through Friday evening. Last year, those stores closed Thanksgiving evening and reopened early Friday morning. By keeping the stores open for 24 hours, Wal-Mart is hoping for a steady flow of shoppers instead of mammoth crowds swelling outside its stores in the wee hours of Friday.
In another new twist this year, shoppers at Wal-Mart will not have to sprint toward a pile of flat-screen televisions and scuffle with one another to get one. Rather, customers will be able to enter the store at any time and line up at merchandise displays for the must-have items on their lists. When the products go on sale Friday at 5 a.m., workers will supervise the lines, giving shoppers the merchandise in the order in which they joined the line — until the goods are out of stock.