Nov 27, 2020
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Count Black Friday among the traditions upended this year by COVID-19.
In past years, the holiday shopping season kickoff was heralded by family and friends gathering to grab doorbusters in the cold. But this holiday season, Americans are shying away from shopping in groups and hunkering down online amid the global pandemic.
More stores stayed closed on Thanksgiving than in recent years and are opening early Friday. Old Navy had the earliest opening time with some stores opening at midnight local time.
At 5 a.m., the nation's largest retailers opened their doors, including Walmart, Best Buy, Kohl's, Macy's and Dick's Sporting Goods. More stores opened at 6 a.m. and Target and GameStop opened at 7 a.m. (See the full list of Black Friday store hours here.)
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Black Friday and the weekend after Thanksgiving "are still important, but clearly this year they're not going to have as significant an impact on the holiday season as they have in the past,'' says Tom McGee, president and CEO of the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC). "That said a lot of people will still shop this weekend."
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An ICSC survey found that 51% of those polled plan to shop on Thanksgiving Day and 72% intend to do so on Black Friday, similar to last year's holiday season. On Cyber Monday, 73% expect to make purchases.
Black Friday was already evolving, growing beyond being a one-day event. But this year, retailers unveiled deals earlier than ever to entice shoppers and ease worries about bargain hunters crowding stores in the middle of a global health crisis.
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"This Thanksgiving period, shoppers are interested in two things, getting a good deal on items and feeling safe,'' said Rod Sides, U.S. retail, wholesale and distribution leader for consultancy Deloitte in a statement. "And this is driving significant changes in how they approach the season.''
This will be the first Black Friday that more shoppers scoop up deals online than at an actual store, Deloitte says, with 61% making purchases with the click of a button as compared to 54% who venture out.
Among those surveyed, 61% say they either don't intend to visit stores with friends and relatives this holiday weekend or haven't made a final decision, as compared to 48% who said the same last year.
And nearly 6 in 10 shoppers say they are nervous about browsing in a store this holiday season because of the coronavirus, Deloitte says.
Shoppers will head out on Black Friday, but the day will not be as critical to retailers as in years past, some say.
As the coronavirus surges in various parts of the country, shoppers say they are focused on safety first. Having COVID-19 safety protocols in place mattered most to 36% of those surveyed when picking what stores to visit this weekend, according to the ICSC.
Online sales are expected to soar as more shoppers hunker down at home. Shoppers are expected to spend $10 billion online on Black Friday, 39% more than that day last year, according to Adobe Analytics. And Cyber Monday will keep its top spot as the busiest online shopping day, with shoppers expected to spend $12.7 billion, 35% more than in 2019.
Howard Dvorkin, chairman of Debt.com, said he’s been telling people to prepare for desperation.
“Retailers have barely survived this pandemic, so their holiday marketing will be urgent – and in some cases, exaggerated,” Dvorkin said. “More than ever, you need to be careful. Even in the best of times, you should be wary of too-good-to-be-true offers. This year? Be downright skeptical. When in doubt, don’t spend a dime.”