Catey Hill/MarketWatch—Most consumers went into Walmart (NYSE:WMT) yesterday 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.
Yesterday, Walmart 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? Walmart offered a doorbuster deal on towels: Customers could get a six-pack of washcloths or one bath towel for $1.74. If Twitter is to be believed, towels 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.)
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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].”
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This isn’t the first year that Walmart shoppers have gone mad for towels. Several YouTube videos from 2011 appear to show Walmart 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 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 items 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-based retail consultancy Jeff Green Partners. This, of course, is just what retailers are counting on.
While Walmart didn’t specify specific sales figures, it’s press team hinted that the numbers were strong. Walmart 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.