A Very Different Black Friday: Shopping During a Pandemic

Stores across the country are adapting Black Friday to the COVID-19 pandemic.

During an extremely chaotic year, from the ongoing struggles concerning the COVID-19 pandemic to the roller coaster ride that was this year’s presidential election, one issue has been quite overshadowed during the past few weeks. As Thanksgiving draws near, so does arguably the most popular retail shopping day that kicks off the start of the holiday season: Black Friday. The day when many stores offer incredibly enticing deals that attract immensely large crowds in malls throughout the country will surely look different this year. 

With social distancing measures implemented across the country to flatten the curve of the virus, a day that promotes the antithesis of these efforts will need to be modified to fit the “new normal.” Malls around the world will likely have to intensify security measures not only to deal with the chaos that can escalate because of these sales, but to also ensure that capacity remains at an appropriate level to reduce the likelihood of virus transmission. Stores that promote “door-busting deals” will likely keep their deals to a minimum for the sake of public health, which in turn can lead to a trend in downward profit compared to years prior. 

Additionally, the lines of people waiting for stores to open will have to be reduced or eliminated altogether to ensure the safety of all shoppers. Macy’s has responded to this concern by announcing it will utilize curbside pickup to prevent the large crowds that come from these lines. Aside from the capacity and distancing issues that will have to be dealt with, people may feel uncomfortable at the prospect of shopping in-person regardless of the precautions taken by various stores and companies. However, while this is not an ideal version of this day, it could promote online shopping and change Black Friday for years to come. 

In recent years, the online version of Black Friday — Cyber Monday — has gained significant traction, and this year it will likely see a spike greater than any year prior. Many people are likely to take advantage of the increasing amount of online sales to protect their health and comfortably order from their home. In addition to companies beginning to promote online shopping now more than ever, many stores have adapted to this change by extending their deals to be a month-long event rather than solely for the Black Friday weekend. Walmart has gone a step further by closing its doors on Thanksgiving Day to combat the virus, as well as give its essential workers time to spend with their families during these uncertain times. Target shortly followed Walmart’s decision. These companies have promoted their online sales that will last for the whole month of November and, in some cases, into the start of December.

In essence, Black Friday across the nation, like most aspects of life currently, will take a virtual form this year.  However, in a country that continues to advance in technology, will Black Friday permanently transition into an extension of Cyber Monday in future years? 

I have always liked to do my shopping in-person for items like clothing.  I feel the process is not only easier, but also one that I have grown accustomed to for my whole life. However, malls have been on the decline in recent years due to the increase in online shopping long before COVID-19. I began shopping online even before the pandemic and have found shopping from the comfort of my own room to be extremely convenient. Now, not only is it convenient, but it is also the safest way of reaping the benefits that stores have to offer. While I do not believe in-person shopping will diminish drastically, it is no secret that the retail industry is moving towards online platforms and will likely put more attention on the “cyber” aspect of Black Friday in the future. Regardless of how one participates in Black Friday shopping this year, it is important to remain safe while doing so and put community first as we head into a long awaited and much needed holiday season.