2020: Doing Black Friday Differently – Safety First

Elmo floatRemember the days of the crazed consumer – the ones who would trample their grandmothers to get the latest iteration of a Cabbage Patch Kids or Tickle Me Elmo doll (and eight other classics)?

Those days are long gone. Not only are there fewer people shopping in malls these days, but they are required to stay six feet away from everyone else.

That’s not a bad thing. Many retailers have spent much of the year trying not only to figure out how to operate day-to-day but in the long run. They’ve basically had since March to figure out what the Holiday Shopping season might look like, so here’s a rundown of what many of them are doing – or not doing.

Let’s start with Macy’s. Not only are they one of the oldest retailers left in the country, but they were always the most visible through the season, starting with the Thanksgiving Day parade in New York City.

Snoopy FloatThat will look very different this year, from the traditional parade to the shopping experience it ushers in. Instead, Macy’s is foregoing its signature New York City event as “the celebration will shift to a television only special presentation, showcasing the Macy’s Parade’s signature mix of giant character helium balloons, fantastic floats, street performers, clowns and heralding the arrival of the holiday season with the one-and-only Santa Claus.” As far as the shopping, Macy’s and others in New York City are planning to have COVID-friendly Black Friday shopping hours.

But some retailers have decided instead to offer Black Friday sales earlier and put safety first and foremost. As New Jersey Business Magazine recently reported, “the aim of de-emphasizing single-day, doorbuster events that traditionally draw big crowds. For some, that will mean rolling out the deals before Halloween and then continually unveiling new promotions throughout the season. To that end, many shopping center owners and retailers have opted to close on Thanksgiving Day – reversing a recent trend of offering doorbuster specials on the holiday – to further downplay programs that typically generate crowds.”

Spiderman FloatAlmost all retailers will be having something in-store on Friday, but most have opted for nothing on Thanksgiving Day (or extremely limited options in-store). For example, Best Buy is closed Thanksgiving Day (they were open at 5 p.m. on Thanksgiving last year), but they’ll open for Black Friday at 5 a.m. Kohl’s is doing the same: closed for the holiday, but opening 5 a.m. Friday morning. Old Navy decided to give turkey a break, but they’re opening their doors at the stroke of midnight Black Friday.

Boss Baby Float Design
(Macy’s / Dreamworks)

RetailLeader.com, citing the newest CBRE Holiday Trends Guide, noted that to accommodate the pandemic-weary and still be safe, “Holiday events are being transformed in stores and malls across the U.S. to provide consumer comfort, safety, and a festive atmosphere. Retailers are using contactless engagement and sales, one-way aisles, and virtual waitlists to manage in-store traffic. Malls are deploying security to enforce social distancing and mask-wearing while providing stylized safety communications and sanitization stations throughout the properties.”

It will be interesting to see how people spend their money, and how much, this Black Friday. According to CNBC, they spent $7.4 billion online last year on Black Friday. “The average order value per consumer, at $168, was up nearly 6% year-over-year and also set a new Black Friday record,” CNBC reported. It’ll also be interesting to see how in-store sales fare. Last year, according to USA Today, “brick-and-mortar sales were up 4.2% over last year…and shoppers were willing to travel for a discount: A quarter of consumers traveled more than 25 miles to visit a physical store.”

The plans retailers have for Black Friday are understandably very fluid this year. You can get updates here, on BlackFriday.com. Find us on Twitter and let us know what your plans are – whether as an industry insider or a consumer!

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