Protests, moderate sales mark Black Friday at Prince George’s retailers -- Gazette.Net


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As shoppers flooded Prince George’s County stores seeking Black Friday sales, some Walmart locations in the county had a different kind of long lines to deal with.

Around 400 protesters and Walmart employees marched around the Landover Hills and Laurel stores of the Arkansas-based big-box retailer, demanding better working conditions and benefits for workers and an end to alleged retaliation against those who try to organize.

Cynthia Murray of Hyattsville, a 13-year employee at Walmart’s Laurel location, said she was scheduled to work Friday but chose to take off to participate in the demonstrations. She said she wants to be able to negotiate for a “decent wage” and health benefits, without the threat of reprisals in the form of reduced hours.

“It’s about respect and the need to have a living wage,” Murray said. “I’m not talking about [the current] 40-cent raise once a year.”

Murray said despite speaking out against her employer, she would like to continue to work at Walmart and said she isn’t asking residents to stop shopping at the retailer.

“We don’t want a boycott,” she said. “But maybe we can inspire some shoppers to let the management know that they want Walmart to treat their workers with respect.”

Local Walmart officials declined to speak with The Gazette. David Topar, Walmart’s vice president of corporate communications, said in an email statement that protesters “do not speak for the vast majority of Walmart associates.”

“Press reports are now exposing what we have said all along — the large majority of protesters are not even Walmart workers,” Topar said in the email.

Elsewhere in the county, retailers reported generally moderate traffic at their stores. Mike Summers, assistant manager at the Barnes and Noble bookstore at Bowie Town Center, said he could not provide details about how today’s sales have compared with previous Black Friday sales, but described foot traffic as “solid.”

“We’re not as much of a destination retailer like Best Buy, where they get [swamped with customers on Black Friday],” Summer said. “But it’s been solid. We’re definitely on track.”

But Julian Randall, a manager at the Target at the Mall at Prince Georges in Hyattsville, said he was concerned that the retailer, which opened at 9 p.m. Thursday for Black Friday sales, was lagging behind its sales goal for the day as of noon.

“We were forecasted to do more than $500,000 in sales, but we’re only at about $250,000 now,” Randall said. “We’re not a big Black Friday store — we do better on Christmas Eve — but we’re open until 11 p.m., so maybe we can make it up.”

Victoria Clark, marketing director at the Mall at Prince Georges, said today marked the first widespread midnight opening for the mall. She said smaller stores also benefit from the discounts offered by anchor department stores like Macy’s and Target.

“I think the smaller stores definitely feed off of the department store traffic,” Clark said. “We left it up to the merchants [to decide to open at midnight], but I think a lot are picking up on the success of the major retailers.”

Beth Johnson, the mall’s store director for Fashion to Figure, a plus-size clothing chain with seven locations, said Friday afternoon that while daytime traffic had been moderate, the store benefited from the midnight opening.

“We had a line of 25 customers at midnight,” Johnson said. “Since then, people have been coming in in spurts. “

ewagner@gazette.net