November 11, 2009 / 4:13 PM / 8 years ago

Wal-Mart looks to control crowds on Black Friday

* Will keep majority of discount stores open 24 hrs

* Will disperse crowds throughout its stores

By Nicole Maestri

SAN FRANCISCO, Nov 11 (Reuters) - Wal-Mart Stores Inc (WMT.N) plans to implement new crowd control efforts in its U.S. stores this Thanksgiving holiday weekend, after stampeding holiday shoppers trampled a worker to death last year.

Black Friday, or the day after Thanksgiving, typically marks the official launch of the U.S. holiday season, when retailers offer eye-popping deals and discounts to attract shoppers.

But last year, Jdimytai Damour, 34, was knocked to the ground and trampled to death when frenzied shoppers broke down the doors and surged into a Long Island, New York Walmart discount store at 5 a.m. on Black Friday.

This year, the retailer will open most of its Walmart discount stores on Thanksgiving morning at 6 a.m. and keep those stores open through Friday evening.

Last year, those stores closed Thanksgiving evening and reopened early Friday morning, creating long lines of anxious shoppers waiting outside its stores.

“(Shoppers) will be dispersed through a 200,000 square foot store as opposed to all being right by the front door, waiting to go in,” said spokesman David Tovar.

Walmart supercenters, which combine a full grocery store and discount store, already stay open 24 hours a day.

Once inside, the retailer will allow customers to line up by displays of must-have merchandise throughout the store.

When those products go on sale Friday at 5 a.m., workers will supervise the lines and distribute the merchandise. It is an effort to end the scuffles that inevitably break out between shoppers who rush through stores Black Friday morning, hoping to grab limited supplies of cut-price flat panel televisions or laptop computers. (Reporting by Nicole Maestri; Editing by Derek Caney)

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