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 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 4:32PM
For the first time ever, I actually bought some items from WalMart online.  If it weren't for the possibility of a strike, I never would have done that.  I wonder how many folks who like WalMart shopped there last night and today just to show their support?   Personally, I think the publicity coming out of this actually helped boost WalMart's sales today.  Working class people probably didn't support WalMart employees whining about not earning $13/.hour to stock shelves....
Nov 23, 2012 4:32PM
Wal* Mart set the bait with their sales and junk items and the public fell for it!
Nov 23, 2012 4:30PM
Is this where we will read millions of Americans in Jail for defrauding the Credit Card Companies. Because they have No Job and they cant pay there bills? Dam it.. Walmart had a Rocking Special buy one and get 2 free Sale in China Product.So i had to use that CREDIT CARD with out a Job!
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 4:11PM
Lets be honest, Obama has saved the Union...
Nov 23, 2012 4:05PM
The really sad thing about people who don't have a decent paying job who shop at Walmart is because Walmart came to their town and destroyed good paying manufacturing jobs and small businesses.  IF all those people would STOP going to Walmart OR demand Walmart buy American made products...that would change the American economy and bring jobs back to their towns....
Nov 23, 2012 4:03PM
Unions = thugs in control I think we should strike all unions run business..
Nov 23, 2012 3:51PM
They shouldn't exploit this type of info and the workers won't see this fruits of their labor.  If it weren't for the workers who put in the efforts that they perform Walmart wouldn't be able to grin so broadly.
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 3:39PM
This begs a question.  What recession?
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 3:36PM
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

Wal-mart is evil.  It's a great business model, but it's so great that it's more of a liability to society, than an asset.  People are too stupid in general to collectively make decisions that are good for society though.


If you shopped anywhere on Thanksgiving day---I sincerely hope YOU have to work Thanksgiving day next year.  Get on board with walmart, destroy small, business, enslave and mistreat the majority of your employees....and you too will eventually end up in the same situation.


Now get back to work!

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 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 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 3:10PM
What you do not understand is that when Unions were in power the blue collar middle class owned a piece of the American Dream and the country prospered!  They were able to purchase houses, cars and educations for their children.  Now the 1% is screwing the middle class by leading them to believe the unions are the bad guy.  LOL!!  What about the executives and their pay and bonuses - received even when companies are going belly up, like Hostess??  The middle class needs to form NEW unions that are not corrupt to fight the 1% for what is rightfully THEIRS!!!   Lets unite and bring down the likes of the Koch brothers once and for all - creating prosperity for everyone. 
Nov 23, 2012 3:10PM
Having worked for Wal Mart you are REQUIRED to watch an ANTI-UNION video and that is right after you start there usually within the first week.  Unions have some good and bad but fact is with the FORCED HEALTH INSURANCE companies are going to have to pay better or the economy is going to get worse because if you need to take your bill or grocery money to pay for insurance you will have to cut corners elsewhere.  And $9- $10 an hour in California is not good wages it is slave labor wages.
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!"

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