Wal-Mart Black Friday: 5,000 items a second sold

Did the strikes threatened by frustrated employees make a difference? Perhaps over the long run.

By Jonathan Berr Nov 23, 2012 1:08PM
Wal-Mart store in Secaucus, New Jersey / Jin Lee/Bloomberg via Getty ImagesWal-Mart (WMT) started off the 2012 holiday season on the right foot, selling an astounding 5,000 items per second at the peak of its Black Friday events (which actually began Thursday night). The negative publicity generated by a union-backed protest did little to suppress shoppers' moods.

In fact, the world's largest retailer is claiming that the strike was a bust.

"We estimate that less than 50 associates participated in the protest nationwide," said Wal-Mart U.S. head Bill Simon in a press release. "In fact, this year, roughly the same number of associates missed their scheduled shift as last year."

The protests were mostly peaceful, according to news reports from around the country. A union-backed group of Wal-Mart employees bused hundreds of Chicago protesters to store locations, reports WBEZ. A planned strike in Memphis, Tenn., ended when no one showed up, reports The Commercial Appeal.Just one worker walked off the job in St. Cloud, Fla., and was hit with a police trespassing warning soon after, according to The Huffington Post.

So was the protest a dud? Simon's statement may be premature. Wal-Mart isn't seeing any immediate damage from the threatened strikes, but the moves may raise long-term awareness among shoppers and employees about the way the company treats its workers.

The United Food and Commercial Workers International, which has tried to organize Wal-Mart workers for years, has placed the company in the uncomfortable position of arguing that its low prices do not come at the expense of poorly paid workers. Wal-Mart executives have long maintained that the criticism is unfair.

The Wal-Mart fight underscores the growing tension between workers and employers as Obamacare gets implemented. Some experts argue that employers will slash their ranks of full-time workers ahead of the mandate requiring them to provide health insurance or pay a fine.

Wal-Mart, which is under pressure from Wall Street to improve its results, could use some good news. Friday, it announced the suspension of several executives at a joint venture in India, the latest wrinkle in a widening corruption scandal as the chain hopes to avoid the record $800 million sanction levied against Siemens (SI) in 2008.

Bharti Walmart, a venture between the chain and Indian conglomerate Bharti Enterprises, has suspended a "few associates," including the company's chief financial officer and its entire legal team, according to the New York Times, which cited a company statement and accounts in a local newspaper.

The news is hardly shocking, given that Wal-Mart recently announced that an internal investigation originally focused on Mexico had expanded to India, China and Brazil. These countries also rank high on Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index. Wal-Mart went on this anti-corruption kick after the Times uncovered evidence that the retailer ignored evidence of corruption in Mexico. The company operates 10,500 stores in 27 countries around the world.

The specter of Siemens' misdeeds -- investigators found 4,200 corrupt payments totaling $1.4 billion over six years -- looms large over Wal-Mart. The retailer has little choice but to continue digging. Regulators will go easier on companies that uncover their own violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, or any other law, before the government does it for them. The timing of this probe couldn't have been worse.

Shares of Wal-Mart have jumped more than 16% this year, underperforming rival Target (TGT), which has gained about 25%. Wal-Mart is trading at a multiple of 14.18, near its five-year low, according to Reuters. Target is slightly cheaper with a price-to-earnings ratio of 14.12.  Wall Street analysts have an average 52-week price target on Wal-Mart of $79.44, a 14% upside. Target is expected to hit $70.05, about 9% higher than where it currently trades.

Though some argue that investors should hedge their bets and own both stocks, there is far more downside risk owning Wal-Mart than Target, especially with an ongoing internal corruption investigation and similar probes by government officials. It also isn't clear if the strong Black Friday will mean a strong holiday season -- shoppers may just be spending money earlier.
Jonathan Berr is long Target. Follow him on Twitter@jdberr.

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Nov 23, 2012 3:05PM
If unions are so great, what happened to Hostess?
Nov 23, 2012 2:54PM
unions shoulds start their own companies hire and pay the employees what they think is fair and watch how fast they go out of business.  Unions should be broken up by the government.
Nov 23, 2012 2:42PM
"5,000 items a second", and the union can't get a dime of it.
Nov 23, 2012 3:00PM
If u don't like to shop or work at a certain place, it is you option not to.  No one is going to satisfy everyone all the time.  
Nov 23, 2012 3:13PM
Unions seem to tell everyone how to run their business, so why don't they start their OWN business and show how it should be done???C'mon unions, I'm laying down a challenge!
Nov 23, 2012 3:09PM
How pathetic are we as a society???
People sacrifice what little time they have with family in order to push and shove like a herd of cattle at Wal-tard...and for what? A cartful of made in China RUBBISH that their loved ones will return after Christmas anyway?

RETAILERS: "Remember folks, how much you love your family is directly proportional to how many months it takes you to pay off your credit card bills from all that JUNK...erm...we mean high quality produces...you bought!"

Nov 23, 2012 2:50PM
lets be real. walmart employees don't have the cash to strike or walk out near christmas. That would be like having a mcdonalds strike. not gonna happen
Nov 23, 2012 2:52PM

Does anybody realize all of these great deals are just a bunch of junk the company is trying to get rid of. Wal Mart under scores their suppliers, so even big brands like Panasonic and Sony, sell them the watered down versions of their products. I will shop local because I want the things I buy to last more than 2 years.

Nov 23, 2012 4:03PM
Unions = thugs in control I think we should strike all unions run business..
Nov 23, 2012 2:41PM
"So was the protest a dud?" Duh, what protest? Got to buy some more of the Walmart stock.
Nov 23, 2012 4:48PM
No way am I  going to be suckered into this herd mentality of Black Friday. If you want bargains wait until after Christmas when the retailers are forced to get rid of all this merchandise (crap) in order to clear out their store for their yearly inventory and the new spring line up.  People have become so brainwashed into thinking they have to have the latest gadget, or whatever.   In fact, my goal this holiday season is to not buy one item as I already have everything I need.  Why not look for something far more meaningful than materialism as the Holidays approach?  Let's teach our children a new and far greater lesson in love, family and the importance of helping others who are without a meal, clothes or home and bed to have a restful nights sleep.  Ask yourselves as you contemplate your next purchase, Do I really need another new smart phone, coat, pair of shoes or whatever it is you think will make you happy?
Nov 23, 2012 3:36PM
Wow Good thing We Have CARDBOARD MAN  to help carry them boxes.  Spend Spend Spend.   Borrow the Money,  Spend Your Paycheck Before You get Your Bills.    It Just Shows How All these Stupid People and Money, OR " Money they don't have "  Buy Like Fools.   Shopping Carts FULL of Junk they could Buy any time of the Year.   So Stupid.
Nov 23, 2012 3:27PM
That is a lot of items, are any of the Wal-Mart employees buying?  But remember this is buyers across the whole nation, what about other countries?
Nov 23, 2012 4:27PM
Leave it to MSNBC. By Monday we will read how much money Walmart loss due to some other BS.
Propaganda at it best...

Nov 23, 2012 3:36PM

Nice to see those sheep being herded into Walmarts and Targets, not to mention the Best Buys and other "american" store chains.


And just think, those people are getting "fleeced", and supporting china and japan at the same time!!


That's great....




A dis-satisfied customer and voter...

Nov 23, 2012 3:15PM
I have not been in one of these stores in over 12 years now..and I am doing just fine. I'd rather support companies that promote Americans spending time with their families on a National holiday like Thanksgiving than having them working to push crap made overseas. As for the Unions..well I'd rather have Wal mart workers have a union and make a reasonable wage than be told to go on welfare by Wal Mart like they are now.
Nov 23, 2012 4:38PM
 The average Wal Mart worker probably grosses only $1000 a month. So in effect, the taxpayer is paying for their food via food stamps instead of Wal Mart via their wages
Nov 23, 2012 3:41PM

A little "american" humor now, on this day after the feast and the midnight shopping...


go to youtube, and type in "big box mart".


If you can stand the TRUTH about how this country is selling out to the chinese, reguardless of who is in control of congress.


Enjoy dining on the truth dems, reps, and ALL those that shop at Walmart.




A dis-satisfied customer and voter

Nov 23, 2012 5:55PM

It is very sad to see all of this anti union sentiment.  If it weren't for unions, there wouldn't be any 40 hour work weeks.  There wouldn't be overtime pay.  There wouldn't be health and safety regulations.  There wouldn't be company sponsored benefits.  Or vacation pay or sick pay.  Although unions aren't what they used to be, all of you who believe that unions should be broken are the same people who complain that you have to help part time workers with your tax dollars to get insurance benefits that any decent, kind humanitarian employer would give to the loyal workers who help them to make every dime in thier pockets. 

Isn't anyone tired of employers treating their employees as if they are doing them a favor letting them work?  Obviously the people who are against unions have plenty of money and feel that their employers are taking good care of them.  Unions don't ruin companies.  The GREED of company owners and stock holders ruins companies. 

When the owners of WalMart and the stock holders are lining thier pockets, do you really believe that they care one bit if their employees spend one moment of time with their family?  Do you think they care if that employee can provide for his family or see a doctor buy medicine if he is sick?  You can bet they don't lose one second of sleep over it.  They are more than happy for all of us to pay for it with our taxes instead of giving their employees a living wage and insurance.  And you are the same people who are against Obamacare and socialized government.  You can't have it both ways.

Companies take TIFS and have plenty of lawyers to show them how to not pay taxes. So in the long run, they aren't ever paying their fair share.  

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