Amid pandemic, earlier-than-ever online promotions, Black Friday takes a new shape

Shoppers wait for the doors to open, in hopes of Black Friday savings, at Walmart in LaGrange, Kentucky, November 27, 2020. — Reuters pic
Shoppers wait for the doors to open, in hopes of Black Friday savings, at Walmart in LaGrange, Kentucky, November 27, 2020. — Reuters pic
NEW YORK, Nov 27 — From Walmart Inc to Best Buy, retailers have overhauled Black Friday shopping, with some assigning clerks in orange vests to serve as traffic cops, taking shoppers’ temperatures and offering “grab-and-go” merchandise, including toys, bikes and kitchen appliances to discourage lingering in store aisles.

Most major retailers closed on Thanksgiving this year in a nod to the stress endured by their workers during a global health pandemic. 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 is opening 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, set a 7am opening.

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.

Overall, the National Retail Federation (NRF) forecasts US holiday retail sales will increase between 3.6 per cent and 5.2 per cent over 2019, for a total of US$755.3 billion (RM3.07 trillion) to US$766.7 billion. That compares with an average annual increase of 2.5 per cent over the past five years.

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 US$5 packs of Wonder Nation’s girls’ and boys’ underwear and socks. The spokeswoman declined to comment on the ads.

Lindsey Cox, 43, of Thomasville, North Carolina, said she noticed Walmart’s advertised in-store price for Christmas gnomes was much lower than on Amazon.com Inc. But she said she doesn’t plan to visit Walmart stores on Black Friday.

“I could not justify going into the store right now,” the stay-at-home mother of three told Reuters. The savings is “not worth the tradeoff” of her or her family potentially being exposed to people who may be infected with coronavirus, she said.

On November 19, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) deemed “going shopping in crowded stores just before, on, or after Thanksgiving” as a high-risk activity. — Reuters

 

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