Behind the Scenes at Walmart’s Black Friday

By Angela Mayo
November 25, 2014
A female customer has a cart full of toys during a Black Friday event

2 million TVs. 300,000 bicycles. 2.8 million towels. These are just a few of the items sold at last year’s Black Friday event at Walmart. The merchandise tells an amazing story alone, but how do all those products get into customers’ hands? How does such a big event come together in thousands of stores across the country? Let’s take a look at these facts instead.

More than 90% of our front registers in Walmart stores across the U.S. were open during last year’s Black Friday event. And for me, an operations manager whose job centers on continually improving the organization and execution of this important time, Black Friday comprises 60% of my entire yearly workload. Interesting details for sure, but the goal I’m working toward is actually not about a number. It’s about helping our customers go home satisfied with an extraordinary shopping experience.

Here are a few of the ways Walmart is doing this:

Getting you directions to get there fast
As early as August, my team works with each store to create individual maps and plan techniques they can use to guide customer traffic efficiently around popular items. That also applies to checking out.   This year, for example, in our busiest stores, we’ve devised the most concise route to our registers and have organized clear paths for customers to take.

Helping you find what you need with ease
Each year, we look at all the signs we have in stores and how we can make them better.  Listening to feedback from our customers, one change we’ve made this year is decreasing the amount of red and white balloons on product displays to allow for a clearer view of the entire store. Signs also include displays such as cardboard bins for DVDs. We have a quality assurance process dedicated solely to that type of setup, so we can help ensure the material is sturdy enough and the color is just right.

Training hard and staffing up
Black Friday at Walmart is pretty much all hands on deck. Every associate has a role, which is decided as early as August. Many associates are assigned specific computer-based and hands-on training, and afterward, we organize practice runs of several new and existing event processes.

When the day finally arrives, it goes by fast and it’s a lot of fun. We’re all working hard, but we’re all there together and we’re going to have a great time. I know this from experience, having started out at Walmart 9 years ago as a cashier and working my way up to store manager, where I led Black Friday events at three different locations.

There’s so much excitement in the store that day, and I love to see customers go home happy with carts full of TVs, pajamas and even tinfoil to put up Thanksgiving leftovers. This year, my job means I’ll be watching events unfold not at one store, but from afar at the home office. That’s OK with me, because now I have the privilege of experiencing Black Friday energy all year round.