Black Friday is the latest victim of Covid-19

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The pandemic has come for our vacations, our sports and our restaurants. And now, after weeks of speculation and guesswork, analysts say it’s clear: Covid-19 has claimed Black Friday retail as well.

“It’s not Black Friday. It’s not the people lining up like we are used to, ”said Marshal Cohen, chief retail analyst at The NPD Group. Cohen said that in hours of driving in malls, he only saw queues outside of Macy’s flagship store in New York City and a suburban Best Buy. “All the other stores, you would have thought it was like any other Friday in November,” he says.

The concept of Black Friday as a singular day had already been in decline for several years before the coronavirus pandemic: the proliferation of online shopping, combined with merchants’ desire to avoid the bad press that inevitably followed clips of brawling customers who arguing over televisions had led to a dilution of the nature of extreme sports during the day, although more than half of all people nationwide – some 165 million – had to visit stores over the long weekend from 2019.

This year, stores started promoting holiday sales as early as October and made “Black Friday” sale prices available well in advance of the Thanksgiving holiday, while Amazon changed its Prime Day shopping event from July to October. The pandemic also appears to have killed the controversial practice of opening stores on Thanksgiving Day itself, with most major retail chains announcing Friday opening hours at 5 a.m.

“There is definitely a pretty clear feeling that you don’t need to go out today,” Joseph Feldman, Senior Managing Director of Telsey Advisory Group. “I think it was by design. The retailers didn’t want to create a frenzy. “

Black Friday is also being boosted by the broader shift in consumption patterns, said Lizabeth Dunn, operating partner at Consumer Growth Partners. “There is a return to buying things, compared to these several years where consumers are just focusing on experiences,” she said. “People really want celebration and connection, and we can’t see each other, so we kind of fall back on… stuff.

Comments from retail analysts as well as social media users suggest that the biggest crowds are in electronics stores or for potential game console buyers. A Reuters photo released Friday morning showed a group of what appeared to be mostly teens and young adults – most but not all wearing masks – crowded outside a game store in a Virginia suburb of Washington, DC

People really crave celebration and connection, and we can’t see each other, so we kind of fall back on “buying things”.

But scenes like this seemed to be the exception rather than the rule.

“I went to our local Effingham, IL Walmart store around 6:20 am this morning and it was DEAD !! They said there had been around 80 people online at 5 a.m., but they were coming and going quickly, ”one Facebook user wrote, adding that they had only seen about 20. cars in the parking lot of the store when they visit.

“I think a lot of people are going to avoid going out in person this year,” Dunn said.

April Heil is one of those buyers. “Usually for Black Friday my family and I or my partner and I go to the mall or we go to one of the local stores around us like TJ Maxx, or shop some of the local outdoor malls, but we will not be. do that this year, ”the Pennsylvania resident said.

Heil, 23, said she and her immediate family had recently had a fear of exposure to Covid-19, and even after a negative test and good health, she was reluctant to venture into unnecessary errands. “This spring, we felt a bit further away, but now it’s hitting very close to home,” she said.

The concerted campaign by retailers to push shoppers into the digital arena has dramatically reduced typical foot traffic, but to what extent is unlikely to be clear until brands have totaled in-store and electronics sales.

Even in the week leading up to Thanksgiving, data from Edison Trends revealed online sales in the United States were up 167% year-over-year at Target, 88% at Best Buy, and 80%. % at Walmart. Adobe Analytics found that Thanksgiving Day spending rose 22% to a record high of $ 5.1 billion.

“I think the retailers were ready. I think they had their promotional cadence set a long time ago, ”Feldman said. “Everything we’ve heard from those who have reported income recently, everyone said November is a great start.”

The immediate online availability of products and prices traditionally reserved for in-store shoppers is expected to reduce retail traffic by approximately 20% across the United States, said Greg Maloney, president and CEO of retail operations at the United States. Americas retail of real estate services company JLL.

“It’s going to be a curb Christmas for a lot of people,” he said. “We’re going to see in-store or curbside pickup being the preferred method when you go to a physical store.”

“What we’re seeing is that some retailers could see half of their online orders, if not more, be picked up in stores,” said Nick Shields, consumer industry analyst at Third Bridge.

Maloney added, however, that stores are seeing significant regional variation. “The other thing that is important to emphasize is that it will be geographic. I’m in the southeast and I can tell you that just before – Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday – the malls and stores were extremely busy, ”he said.

“I tried attending a Best Buy this morning at 6.30am or 7am and it was pretty insane,” said David Marcotte, senior vice president of global outlook at Kantar Consulting – although he added that many Residents of Tucson, Arizona, the area where he is based seem to go about their business more or less as usual.

Marcotte attributed this to a combination of locally low transmission rates and a Wild West frontier spirit. “Part is cultural. It’s really a libertarian state of mind, ”he said.

“These will be really regional performance levels,” Cohen said. “Obviously the number of cases makes a difference, and there is certainly a pent-up demand for safe exiting.”

For buyers like Heil, however, this dynamic is always fraught with risk. “I could go online and see if I can do my Christmas shopping this weekend,” she said, adding that her fear of exposure had changed her perception of the holiday shopping tradition.

“This whole situation definitely affected our Black Friday plans,” she said. ” I knew [the virus] was there, and it was far, and now it’s starting to affect me personally.

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