Retail Traffic

Learning from a Retail Tragedy

On Black Friday, Jdimytai Damour, a temporary worker at Wal-Mart in Valley Stream, N.Y., was crushed by a crowd of an estimated 2,000 shoppers during the store's doorbuster sale while he tried to shield a pregnant woman from the mob. The crowd did literally break the door at the Wal-Mart as the store's staff was ill-equipped to handle the mass of people. Damour later died of asphyxiation.

The incident has triggered a variety of responses. New York City councilman James Gennaro has authored a “Doorbuster Bill” that would require retailers to enact greater security measures during major sales. The bill has not yet been discussed by the council.

Meanwhile, in December during a hearing at the Nassau County Legislature, Nassau County police officials issued a report after meeting with 75 local retailers at a Dec. 15 closed-door meeting at police headquarters in Mineola. The police report places ultimate responsibility for store security with retailers and mall owners — as opposed to local law enforcement. It calls for the retailers to plan thoroughly, arrange for efficient crowd control and engage in clear communication with the crowd.

The report in part concluded, “the responsibility for the security and control of these sales events rests with the store. Store administrators should never market a sales event without having a plan, and the proper resources to manage it.”

Police also reported that stores should plan security for sales events months in advance, assign enough staffers to manage expected customer traffic and train workers before the event.

Damour, 34, was 6 feet, 5 inches tall and weighed 270 pounds. It was for that reason that store management apparently placed him at the front of the store, despite the fact that he had never received any formal training in crowd control. He was overpowered by the crowd.

The report also pulls from crowd control techniques commonly used at concerts and major sporting events. It recommends that retailers should erect temporary barricades or rope lines outside stores to help manage crowds or hand out wristbands or numbered tickets to arriving store customers.

It also recommends positioning store employees in parking lots and providing them with radios to share information. In addition, it recommends that retailers only allow patrons to enter stores in smaller groups, not all at once, to avoid rushes.

In addition, the police report suggests that retailers should create maps within stores pointing out where potentially popular sale items are located and to keep patrons outside when stores reach maximum capacities.

“It seems very, very comprehensive and very well thought out,” says Howard Davidowitz of Howard Davidowitz & Associates, a Manhattan-based retail consultant and investment banking firm. “To me, the whole thing comes down to planning.”

Retailers and mall owners would be well served in heeding the report's findings. As it stands, Damour's death resulted in a series of lawsuits against Wal-Mart, the mall's owner and local law enforcement from Damour's family as well as a handful of shoppers who were injured during the incident.

Just Dukky

Dukky, a New Orleans-based gift card marketer, unveiled its direct mail program for mall operators to drive consumer traffic and monitor their retailer preferences. In its pilot program with an undisclosed mall 10,000 personalized, co-op gift cards were mailed to area residents in the test market. The online program includes a mailer of pre-loaded, personalized gift cards from retailers. The activated card indicates which retailers the recipients are most interested in visiting and provides tenants and operators with real-time data and customer information.

Law in Cali

A new law was enacted in California last month that requires owners of nonresidential properties disclose the energy consumption of their property as part of the state's participation in the Federal Energy Star program. As of January, California began compiling data on energy use of all commercial buildings and will use the information including tracking weekly operating hours, number of personal computers and percentage of gross floor area heated or cooled and benchmark it against data provided by the various utility companies in the state. The information will then be provided to the Environmental Protection Agency's Energy Star Portfolio Manager to gauge against its Energy Star standards.

Conserving Water

Regency Centers has employed an outdoor water conservation system called “smart” irrigation controllers at 36 of its shopping centers. “Smart” irrigation controllers use local weather information to adjust volume, timing and duration of watering and minimize the likelihood of overwatering. The initiative is projected to save more than 42 million gallons of water annually as well as reduce Regency's operating costs and those of its tenants. The program is being piloted at centers in Arizona, California, Colorado, Oregon and Washington before being rolled out to the rest of its portfolio of shopping centers.

Solar Savings

Developers Diversified Realty and Westfield both have launched rooftop solar initiatives. DDR's program, in partnership with SunEdison, a solar energy services provider, will use solar photovoltaic (PV) systems beginning with its properties in California, Colorado, New Jersey and Puerto Rico. Once operational, DDR will be able to purchase energy for use in the common areas of its malls. A solar energy system deployed at one DDR shopping center will reduce carbon dioxide pollution by an estimated 10 million pounds, as well as significant amounts of nitrous oxide and methane pollutants. Westfield has introduced rooftop PV systems to supply as much as 50 percent of the energy to power the food court and ice rink at its regional shopping center in San Diego, University Town Center (UTC). The 100-kilowatt solar array, generating power through renewable PVs will reduce carbon emissions by an estimated 250,000 pounds per year; the equivalent of planting more than 30 acres of trees. The project is part of a $900 million renovation enhancing sustainability at UTC.

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