Wal-Mart's Black Friday hit? A 29-cent towel

The retailer sold 2.8 million towels, many to shoppers who were buying for themselves.

By MSN Money Partner Dec 2, 2013 7:33PM
By Catey Hill, MarketWatch

Most consumers went into Wal-Mart (WMT) this weekend hoping to score doorbusters on things like televisions, tablets, bikes and toys. 

But the retailer has a not-so-dirty little secret: its customers -- who risked punches, shoving and stampedes -- bought more towels than tablets on Gray Thursday.
On Thanksgiving Day, Wal-Mart stores opened at 6 p.m. and processed more than 10 million register transactions in its stores through 10 p.m., the company says. The store sold 2 million televisions, 1.4 million tablets and 1.9 million dolls. But that’s child’s play compared to the number of towels it sold -- 2.8 million.

Why the ravenous demand for linens? Wal-Mart offered a doorbuster deal on towels: Customers could get a six-pack of washcloths for $1.74 -- or 29 cents each -- or one bath towel for $1.74. 

If Twitter is to be believed, towel deals may have been fight-worthy. Several shoppers tweeted they saw fights break out over the towels, including @anthony2328, who wrote “I just saw the best fight tonight at walmart tonight over towels !” (Walmart has not commented.)

Another reason the towels sold so well was that Black Friday weekend has increasingly become a holiday where shoppers are out shopping for themselves, says Meghan Heffernan, the director of public relations for Savings.com. Towels tend not to be popular gifts. 

According to a survey for DealNews. 44% of consumers planned to buy loot for themselves on Black Friday; among consumers ages 18 - 35 that number swells to 57%. “More people are now shopping for themselves on Black Friday,” says Heffernan. “That number has gone up significantly [from previous years].”Wal-Mart store in Secaucus, New Jersey / Jin Lee/Bloomberg via Getty Images

This isn’t the first year that Wal-Mart shoppers have gone mad for towels. Several YouTube videos from 2011 appear to show Wal-Mart shoppers in a frenzy over the stores’ towels in various locations. And they’re not the only retailer hoping to lure consumers in with great deals on towels, bed linens and other such items. Green says that Macy’s (M) had some strong sales on these types of linens this year.

Even without a major doorbuster, Andy Brennan, an analyst with research firm IBISWorld, says that iems like towels tend to sell well because they are affordable. It’s the bargain-basement priced doorbusters that draw consumers in, but then they end up buying more than just that item, says Jeff Green, the president of Phoenix retail consultancy Jeff Green Partners. This, of course, is just what retailers are counting on.

While Wal-Mart didn’t specify specific sales figures, it’s press team hinted that the numbers were strong. Wal-Mart had “record-breaking Black Friday results” as “millions of customers, once again, took advantage of the retailer’s deals that began on Thanksgiving Day and last throughout the weekend,” the company said in a release.

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Tags: MWMT
Dec 3, 2013 12:36PM
Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large numbers.
Dec 3, 2013 7:46AM
hi, I saw a bunch of union workers grabbing towels because they were laid off from there high priced job !
Dec 2, 2013 8:05PM
I slugged some little old lady, and got her washcloths and one towel...Man was she greedy !!
Dec 2, 2013 8:10PM
Did anyone get the 70 inches HDTV by Vizio for $996.00 as the hype around their leaked Black Friday sales?
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