Published November 24, 2011
Occupy Wall Street-inspired protesters are eyeing a new target -- Target. And dozens of other companies.
A campaign under the name "Occupy Black Friday" is trying to enlist supporters to boycott just about every major retailer, and quite a few mid-sized ones, the day after Thanksgiving. The protesters are casting a wide net, urging people to demonstrate against the top retail stores -- a list that includes everything from Wal-Mart to Target to Dick's Sporting Goods to Dollar Tree.
"The idea is simple, hit the corporations that corrupt and control American politics where it hurts, their profits," the group's Facebook page reads, describing Black Friday as the "one day where the mega-corporations blatantly dictate our actions."
But retailers, who are monitoring the mini-movement, warn that a blanket boycott could end up hurting local communities.
"Retailers, regardless of their size, are an important part of the community, and they employ friends and neighbors of that community across the country," said Joseph LaRocca, a senior adviser to the National Retail Federation specializing in loss prevention.
He said retailers have security plans in place and will "work through" any protests and disruptions that occur this weekend.
While warning that boycotts could hurt workers, LaRocca said that retailers are preparing for a "very busy day" and weekend, and that it doesn't yet appear the Occupy Black Friday push will turn into a massive boycott. As of Tuesday afternoon, the group's Facebook page had about 1,250 supporters.
Brian Dodge, spokesman with the Retail Industry Leaders Association, said his group is monitoring the protest to see whether it grows in popularity going into the weekend.
"At this point, we're not sure" what kind of impact it will have, he said. "Retailers, they prepare for lots of contingencies every day and certainly on Black Friday."
Some retailers have earned the ire of customers and workers for planning to open at midnight after Thanksgiving. But the Occupy-inspired protest does not appear to be based on any particular policy of the targeted stores other than the fact that their profits are substantial enough to place them in the top 100 list.
The planned boycott comes as unemployment hovers at 9 percent and the economy crawls out of recession. On Tuesday, the Commerce Department revised its third-quarter estimates to show the economy grew at just a 2 percent rate between July and September, instead of the 2.5 percent rate initially estimated.
Retail sales have been on the rise lately, and companies are hoping Black Friday will be the jolt the industry needs. According to a study conducted for the National Retail Federation, as many as 152 million people are planning to hit the stores this weekend -- up from 138 million people who said as much last year.
A post on the Occupy Black Friday website claims the campaign is not an attempt to punish "small businesses or hardworking people."
"We must make a distinction between the businesses that are in the pockets of Wall Street and the businesses that serve our local communities," the site said.
According to the folks at Occupy Black Friday, these offenders include Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, Burlington Coat Factory and GameStop.
The group is urging people to take their pick -- either "occupy" the stores, or boycott them.
"Any holiday shopping we do this day will be at independent shops to support local economies and the 99% as a whole!" the group's Facebook page says.
Tony Boicourt, the co-founder of the Facebook page, said he's urging people to boycott 'mega retailers,' which oftentimes only hire seasonal workers during the holidays.
"If everyone were to just start buying local, or American more jobs would be created here helping the U.S. economy rather than creating mass jobs in other countries that these huge retailers use for cheap manufacturing," Boicourt wrote in an email to FoxNews.com.
LaRocca cautioned that boycotts of major retailers could also hit local economies.