Americans ignored the threat of COVID-19 to line up outside stores then pack them out on Black Friday despite being told by the CDC to stay at home and shop online as the number of cases continued to soar across the country.
Thanksgiving had been labeled the ‘mother of all superspreaders’ with millions of Americans flouting guidance to fly home to see their families, many of them ignoring social distancing rules and doing away with masks once they were in their homes.
It segued straight into a similar disregard for the virus on Friday. People ran through malls in Florida to get to the stores first and lines of people formed overnight in North Carolina and even in some stores in New York City.
It comes amid a continued surge in cases and hospitalizations; the US has the worst COVID problem of anywhere in the world.
More than 200,000 have died and another 40,000 are predicted to die before a vaccine becomes widely available in 2021.
NEW YORK CITY: People wearing masks crowd around the entrance of Foot Locker during Black Friday on November 27, 2020
NYC: Macy’s was abandoned this morning shortly after the doors opened. It is normally one of the busiest stores in the city
SOUTH CAROLINA: People in Anderson, North Carolina, slept outdoors overnight on Thanksgiving to ensure they had a place inline at the GameStop store
Mandatory Credit: Masked and sort of socially distanced customers in search of Black Friday bargains file into a Target store in Tempe, Arizona
L.A.: Shoppers lined up through the night in Los Angeles to ensure they’d be among the first through the doors
VIRGINIA: America is bracing itself for Black Friday today as retailers pin their hopes on a surge in sales amid fears coronavirus will dampen crowds of bargain hunters. Shoppers queue for a computer games store to open in Tysons, Virginia
VIRGINIA: A crowd of tightly-packed shoppers were spotted outside a computer games store in the Tysons Corner Center in Tysons, Virginia first thing this morning
TEXAS: Black Friday shoppers wait in line to enter an electronics store that opened at 5am in the Dallas suburb in Frisco, Texas this morning
NEW YORK CITY: People leaving Best Buy with plasma TVs early on Friday morning. The store opened at 5am
Walmart reopened stores at 5am today, directing shoppers to turn right upon entering and proceed along main aisles to shop deals before paying at registers surrounded by plastic barriers.
Best Buy also opened its doors at 5am and Target, which introduced contactless self-checkout and doubled the number of parking spots for its contactless ‘Drive Up’ pick-up service this holiday season, opened at 7am.
MORE PEOPLE PREDICTED TO SHOP ONLINE THAN IN PERSON FOR FIRST TIME EVER
A new poll by Deloitte predicts that more people will shop online than in person for the first time this year.
Of 1,200 shoppers surveyed, 58 percent said they would shop online over 41 percent in person.
Last year, 61 percent went out in person. Most said they wanted to stay home out of an abundance of caution over COVID-19.
Fifty-seven percent said they were anxious about in-person shopping this year.
Deloitte’s poll predicted that the average person would spend $401 shopping this weekend; a decrease from last year that they attributed to financial hardship caused by the pandemic.
The National Retail Federation predicted last week that US spending would be between $755billion and $767billion this weekend which would be an increase on last year, when $729.1billion was spent.
For those who can’t be reassured, stores are moving their doorbuster deals online and ramping up curbside pickup options as a last grasp at sales before the year ends and they head into the dark days of winter with the pandemic still raging.
On November 19, the CDC deemed ‘going shopping in crowded stores just before, on, or after Thanksgiving’ as a high-risk activity. The CDC urged people to limit any in-person shopping, including at supermarkets. Instead, the health agency recommends shopping online, visiting outdoor markets or using curbside pickup, where workers bring orders to you in the parking lot.
Traditionally, Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, has launched the holiday shopping season in the United States, with retailers offering steep discounts and turning a significant profit.
But during this pandemic-ridden year, major retailers from Target Corp to Kohl’s Corp and Walmart rolled out online winter holiday promotions in October to capture any holiday-related spending as early as possible.
Black Friday is still expected to hold the title of the busiest shopping day this year after retailers were successful in convincing customers to spend early by pushing big discounts in mid-October.
Overall, the National Retail Federation forecasts US holiday retail sales will increase between 3.6% and 5.2% over 2019, for a total of $755.3 billion to $766.7 billion. That compares with an average annual increase of 2.5% over the past five years.
Online sales could realize even bigger gains heading into the holidays with more than half of US shoppers expected to shop online on Black Friday.
Black Friday is projected to generate $10 billion in online sales, a 39 per cent bump from the year ago period, according to Adobe Analytics, which measures sales at 80 of the top 100 US online retailers.
Cyber Monday, the Monday after Thanksgiving, will remain the biggest online shopping day of the year with $12.7 billion in sales, a 35 per cent jump.
‘After all they’ve been through, we think there’s going to be a psychological factor that they owe it to themselves and their families to have a better-than-normal holiday,’ said NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz.
‘There are risks to the economy if the virus continues to spread, but as long as consumers remain confident and upbeat, they will spend for the holiday season.’
A Walmart spokeswoman said the world’s largest retailer was not selling traditional ‘hot-ticket doorbuster’ items in stores this Black Friday.
But even as health officials around the globe encouraged people to stay home and shop online, Walmart set aside some deals only for shoppers who came into its stores – advertising items including ‘in-store only’ savings on $5 packs of Wonder Nation’s girls’ and boys’ underwear and socks.
The spokeswoman declined to comment on the ads.
ILLINOIS: After waiting in line in the pre-dawn hours, customers enter a Best Buy store on Black Friday in Gurnee, Illinois
NEW JERSEY: People line up in the early hours outside a Walmart in New Jersey this morning
VIRGINIA: Tysons Corner Center in Virginia drew huge morning crowds as people lined up hours before stores reopened for Black Friday sales
KENTUCKY: Brave shoppers camped outside GameStop in La Grange, Kentucky overnight
KENTUCKY: The shoppers braved the cold conditions as they waited patiently in line outside GameStop in La Grange, Kentucky overnight
KENTUCKY: Shoppers waiting outside gaming shops in La Grange were covered in blankets or sat in their own isolated tents
‘Black Friday is still critical,’ said Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData Retail. ‘No retailer wants it to be tarnished. It’s still vital to get their consumers spending and get consumers into the holiday mood.’
The pandemic has already benefited Amazon, which continues to seal its dominance in the online space as jittery shoppers click on their devices instead of venturing into stores.
Likewise, chains like Walmart and Target that were allowed to stay open during the spring lockdowns fared far better than department stores and other non-essential retailers that were forced to close.
That disparity helped speed up bankruptcy filings of more than 40 chains, including J.C. Penney and J.Crew, and resulted in hundreds of stores closings.
Plenty of clothing chains like Abercrombie and Fitch have warned of more difficult days ahead, including the possibility of even more store closures. A&F said Tuesday it expects sales declines to deepen to 5 percent to 10 percent for the holiday quarter.
‘There are a lot of unknowns as we head into what’s our traditionally highest volume weeks of the year,’ Scott Lipesky, chief financial officer at Abercrombie & Fitch told analysts on its earnings call.
‘With COVID numbers rising, there is the potential for a change in apparel demand and customer willingness to enter physical stores.’
Department stores and other clothing stores that haven’t yet recovered from the closures during the spring will have a hard time making up for lost sales, says Ken Perkins, president of Retail Metrics LLC , a retail research firm.
For the fiscal third quarter, mall-based retailers saw their profits down 20 per cent while big box stores and other retailers that operate outside a traditional mall posted a 19 per cent increase, according to RetailMetrics’ tally of roughly 100 retailers.
For the fiscal fourth quarter, mall-based retailers are expected to see profits down 31 per cent, while off-mall stores should see profits up one per cent.