Police stepped up enforcement efforts around shopping malls on Black Friday, the busiest shopping day of the year, with the hope of preventing the mayhem that ensued last year at a Porter Ranch Walmart when a woman pepper-sprayed other shoppers.
The Los Angeles Police Department plans to have officers on horseback and in helicopters at and above shopping malls today in an effort to ensure a safe Black Friday.
The pepper-spray incident broke out last Thanksgiving as clerks were unwrapping plastic from a shipment of Xbox electronic gaming consoles.
About 20 people suffered minor injuries, police said.
Walmart, the nation's largest retailer, has prepared each its of 4,000 stores “with a specific plan unique to each store to manage the crowd as they take advantage of our in-store specials,” said Steven V. Restivo, Walmart's senior director of community affairs.
“The safety of our customers and associates is always a top priority for us,” Restivo told City News Service. “We are confident our customers can look forward to a safe and enjoyable shopping experience.''
There were at least two shootings during robberies in Walmart parking lots on Black Friday last year.
A man was wounded in the parking lot outside the Walmart store in San Leandro; and a woman was shot and a man was hit in the head with a gun in the parking lot of the Walmart store in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
The day after Thanksgiving has become known as Black Friday, as it begins the Christmas shopping season, when retailers achieve a profit for the year after operating at a break-even point or loss.
It is also a reference to the accounting practice of using black ink, or being ''in the black,'' to denote profits.
It is a day known for customers lining up outside stores and shopping centers in the cold -- even camping for several days -- awaiting earlier-than- usual opening times to take advantage of sale prices, some in effect for just a few hours.
Fewer people told pollsters they plan to shop on Black Friday this year.
A poll conducted for the International Council of Shopping Centers, a shopping center trade association, and the investment banking firm Goldman Sachs, found that 80.5 million people planned to shop today. A 2011 poll conducted by BIGresearch for the National Retail Federation, the world's largest retail trade association, found that 86.26 million people went shopping on Black Friday last year.
The federation's 2012 holiday survey found that boys' top toy choices are Legos, video games, Hot Wheels cars and any toy cars, the Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii U, Transformers, remote-controlled vehicles, Furby and trucks.
The top girls' choices are Barbie dolls, followed by dolls in general; Furby; Monster High dolls; Disney Princess dolls; American Girls dolls; video games; the Dora the Explorer dolls; Apple iPad; and apparel.
”Toy trends are ever changing, sometimes proving challenging to parents who want to make their kids happy while staying on budget,” National Retail Federation President and CEO Matthew Shay said. “This year's top toys are trendy and new, but also have some staying power, meaning children won't get bored with them within a few weeks.”