There were shorter lines at brick-and-mortar stores and surges in online shopping and pickups on Black Friday but many die-hard shoppers showed up in person despite the coronavirus pandemic.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had encouraged shoppers to avoid crowded stores and to shop online Friday. Some listened, and some apparently didn't.
According to Adobe Analytics, virtual shoppers drove online spending to a record-shattering $5.1 billion on Thanksgiving Day, 21.5% more than in 2019, USA Today reported.
Kelly O’Keefe, a managing partner at the consulting firm, Brand Federation, said “This year is going to be a Black Friday unlike any other ... “We’re not going to have crowds knocking down Walmart’s door this year. There will be fewer people in stores and there will be much better management of those people,” she told The New York Times.
Breaking with tradition, some major retail chains were closed on Thanksgiving this year after years of being open on the holiday.
But lines still formed Friday outside retailers that opened their doors as early as 5 a.m.
According to the National Retail Federation, about 59% of shoppers had started their holiday shopping by early November. “There is no doubt that curbside, pick up in-store, Instacart, Shipt and Uber, has shifted consumer actions that we once thought unchangeable,” Brett Rose, founder and CEO of the United National Consumer Suppliers, told USA Today.
Retailers including Walmart, Best Buy, Kohl's, Macy's and Dick's Sporting Goods opened at 5 a.m. Others opened at 6 a.m. while Target and GameStop opened an hour later.
Outside the Macy’s flagship store in New York City's Herald Square, things looked pretty normal. Holiday lights adorned the building and windows, though shoppers were reminded to stay six feet apart by red floor stickers.
But news photos showed crowded aisles despite the notices.
Moses Sloane, 32, and his mother, Michelle Sloan, 50, were at the Macy’s store just before 7 a.m., to keep their Black Friday pilgrimage amid the pandemic.
“This year was more about traditional than actual shopping. It’s a way to get into the spirit of the holiday,” Moses told The Times. “We didn’t buy anything, as there just weren’t as many deals as there were last year.”
There were several reports of shoppers who camped out. GameStop stores attracted crowds looking to score the new Sony PlayStation 5 and Microsoft Xbox Series X, two in-demand gaming consoles that are currently out of stock at most stores and online, USA Today reported.
Black Friday, considered the official kickoff to the Christmas season, is a tradition that historians say originated in Philadelphia in the 1960s, when throngs of shoppers and tourists would descend on the city on the day between Thanksgiving and the Army-Navy football game. The Philadelphia police took to calling the day Black Friday because officers had to work long hours and deal with bad traffic, harsh weather and other crowd-related miseries, The Times reported.