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Stores now face Security Friday

With an estimated 140 million Americans predicted to shop this weekend, retailers are bolstering security, deploying Segway patrols, and putting on live music to distract shoppers and avoid the deal-hunting scrums that can foster Black Friday tramplings.

Employees direct customers to merchandise at a Best Buy Co. store ahead of Black Friday in Peoria, Illinois, U.S., on Thursday, Nov. 28, 2013. U.S. retailers will kick off holiday shopping earlier than ever this year as stores prepare to sell some discounted items at a loss in a battle for consumers. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg
Employees direct customers to merchandise at a Best Buy Co. store ahead of Black Friday in Peoria, Illinois, U.S., on Thursday, Nov. 28, 2013. U.S. retailers will kick off holiday shopping earlier than ever this year as stores prepare to sell some discounted items at a loss in a battle for consumers. Photographer: Daniel Acker/BloombergRead moreBloomberg

With an estimated 140 million Americans predicted to shop this weekend, retailers are bolstering security, deploying Segway patrols, and putting on live music to distract shoppers and avoid the deal-hunting scrums that can foster Black Friday tramplings.

Malls are beefing up patrols with off-duty cops. Chains including Wal-Mart Stores Inc. are using quota systems for popular door busters from iPads to jewelry. Yet all was not peaceful. In one incident, uploaded to YouTube, uniformed security officers handcuffed a female shopper at an unidentified Wal-Mart store after a tussle over a television. Bill Simon, chief executive officer of Wal-Mart's U.S. division, was asked about the incident on a conference call Friday reporters.

"Any time you get more than 22 million people together, you're going to have some behavior you're not proud of," said Simon, who also said "the number of incidents" was down from last year and that it's "hard to tell what happened in any individual incident."

The National Retail Federation issued crowd management guidelines, urging stores to prepare for flash mobs, long lines of angry customers and crowded washrooms. The Washington-based trade group has sent out the memo annually since a Wal-Mart worker was trampled to death in 2008 during a Black Friday melee.

Stores ramped up security precautions earlier than ever this year because so many chains opened their doors on Thanksgiving. Nearly a quarter of shoppers, or 33 million people, intending to hit the stores this holiday weekend planned to shop Thursday, according to an NRF survey.

With more stores opening on Thanksgiving, malls have been seeing more guests who drank too much booze with their turkey, said Garth Gasse, director of retail operations and asset protection at the Retail Industry Leaders Association, an Arlington, Va., trade group.

"They've probably consumed a few and they probably shouldn't be out shopping," Gasse said.

Black Friday safety became a preoccupation for retailers after the Wal-Mart worker's death five years ago at a store in Valley Stream, N.Y.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited the company for "inadequate crowd management," and in May 2009, said the worker died of asphyxiation after he was knocked to the ground and trampled by a crowd of about 2,000 shoppers who surged into the store for a "Blitz Friday" sale.

This year, Wal-Mart distributed wristbands for its 6 and 8 p.m. special events on Thanksgiving. To prevent a rush, shoppers with wristbands were allowed to return two hours after an event starts to pick up their purchases.

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