Black Friday: Live Updates and Latest News

Black Friday: Live Updates and Latest News

Credit…Jim Wilson/The New York Times

Retailers have experienced a stark split in fortunes during the pandemic. The mass shutdowns this spring fueled bigname bankruptcies and thousands of stores closures. And the strong like Amazon and Walmart have only gotten stronger and more profitable, driven by their online businesses and ability to supply everything people need while stuck at home, from food to electronics.

Now, all retailers are entering their most important time of the year — the holiday shopping season that has long revolved around Black Friday.

Traditionally, the day has been known for doorbuster deals and early morning in-person shopping. This year, many of those deals began as early as October and were offered online, reflecting both the challenges physical stores face in the pandemic and the shift in how consumers prefer to shop.

About 59 percent of shoppers had started their holiday shopping by early November, according to the National Retail Federation. And more of that shopping is occurring online. E-commerce sales are expected to grow by as much as 30 percent over last year’s holiday season, the trade group said.

Over all, the industry group, which is usually bullish, said holiday sales could rise between 3.6 percent and 5.2 percent, compared with last year’s 4 percent increase.

Whatever the size of the increase, it is remarkable on many levels that Americans, on the whole, are expected to spend more this holiday season than last.

The retail industry has evolved rapidly to meet the strong consumer demand this holiday season, transforming department stores into fulfillment centers, building new warehouses, hiring hundreds of thousands of workers mostly to fill e-commerce roles, and extending curbside pickup.

And yet, for all the upending of shopping habits this year, stores are still hoping for Black Friday crowds on Friday. Best Buy and Walmart, for example, are offering many of their deals in stores, starting at 5 a.m.

Credit…Amr Alfiky/The New York Times

Black Friday has long been the biggest shopping day of the year, with doorbuster deals inspiring some die-hard shoppers to camp out all night in front of big-box stores.

But as coronavirus cases climb across the country and public health officials beg people to avoid crowds, will stores still try to lure customers inside? And if they do, will customers take the bait and show up?

“This year is going to be a Black Friday unlike any other,” said Kelly O’Keefe, managing partner at the Brand Federation, a consulting firm. “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.”

Here’s what some of the biggest retailers are doing to keep customers safe on Black Friday this year:

Best Buy said it was selling this year’s new gaming consoles online only, to avoid lines outside stores.

The electronics chain said it would limit the number of customers inside stores to comply with social-distancing guidelines as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Best Buy also said it would consider limiting store hours, reducing occupancy and shifting to curbside-only pickup service “on a case-by-case basis to help local communities contain outbreaks.”

All pickup orders will now happen curbside, and pickup will be available before and after in-store hours.

The stores will require customers and employees to wear face coverings and will supply face coverings to customers who do not have one. Best Buy will provide sanitizer wipes near high-touch displays to give the customers the option of wiping down surfaces before engaging with them.

Walmart put on three separate sales in November, both online and in store.

It is offering customers the option to pick up their online Black Friday orders through Walmart’s contactless curbside pickup service.

On Black Friday itself, Walmart stores will open at 5 a.m., and customers will be asked to form a single, straight line to enter the stores. Employees will hand out sanitized shopping carts and will remind customers to wear a mask when entering the store. Walmart will limit the number of customers in the store to 20 percent capacity and will direct customers to shop down the right-hand side of aisles.

Target has spread its sale offerings throughout all of November, offering promotions of different product categories each week.

To minimize lines, Target has added mobile checkout devices to allow store employees to help shoppers check out anywhere in the store. The company also allows guests to check out by themselves using Target’s mobile app.

Additionally, the company has added thousands of items eligible for same-day pickup.

Target says it will monitor the number of shoppers to ensure people have enough space to shop safely and will allow customers to reserve a spot in line outside their local store.

The home improvement retailer has made Black Friday prices available throughout the holiday season, from Nov. 6 through December, both in store and online, in an effort to reduce crowds. Home Depot said it had reduced the number of items displayed in certain areas in stores to create more space for social distancing.

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