Amazon kicked off its holiday shopping deals earlier this year, ending on Nov. 19 – one week ahead of the highly-anticipated, annual day of customers’ big spending – Black Friday, Nov. 27.
Best Buy and Target have already followed suit with Walmart taking up the rear with their first day of holiday deals available to shoppers on Nov. 25.
But Black Friday 2020 presents an unprecedented challenge because of the still raging coronavirus pandemic.
Many merchants say they’re bracing for this year of the unfamiliar, uncertain as to what the results will be from this year’s annual retail crush.
“We’re taking a completely new approach to Black Friday, giving guests more flexibility and ensuring they can plan ahead for a safe, stress-free shopping experience,” Christina Hennington, Target’s executive vice president and chief merchandising officer, said in a news release.
“By offering a preview of our Black Friday Now deals for the entire month of November and extending our Price Match Guarantee, we’re taking the guesswork out of holiday shopping and making Target the easiest place to get the best deals,” Hennington added.
Maryland and Northern Virginia counties have joined the District in placing tighter coronavirus-related restrictions on businesses and residents including limiting capacity at most stores and requiring the wearing of masks in public spaces.
These and other precautions cannot be more essential in efforts to better protect the health of both shoppers and sales associates.
As of Nov. 20, the seven-day rolling average of cases in the District totaled about 140, the highest since late May, with Maryland reporting more than 1,700 new cases over same period. Virginia officials have reported slight upticks and downturns during the past week.
Currently, the U.S. has more than 12 million confirmed COVID-19 cases while over 254,000 people have died.
Long Lines for Shoppers? Unlikely
The usual overnight and long lines of people who wait for the mad dash for televisions, computers, video games and other big-ticket items have little chance of materializing.
Walmart announced it would allow stores to have only as much as 20 percent capacity.
Customers will form a single, straight line to enter the store, while workers will provide sanitized shopping carts to help with social distancing.
Store officials said they’d have so-called health ambassadors at entrances to greet customers and remind them to put on a mask.
“Customers trust Walmart to deliver an amazing Black Friday year after year,” Scott McCall, Walmart’s executive vice president and the chief merchandising officer noted in a release.
“Although this year’s event looks different, our commitment to what our customers depend on us for the absolute best prices of the season on hot gifts from top brands hasn’t changed,” McCall exclaimed.
“I’m really excited that this year, when it matters most to our customers, we’re offering them more convenient and safer ways to shop Black Friday at Walmart, whether that’s from the shelf in one of our stores, ordering online and picking it up curbside or having it delivered right to their front door,” he said.
Best Buy announced it would open at 5 a.m. on Black Friday.
In a posting on the company’s website, officials listed steps they’re taking to promote safety including requiring all customers and employees to wear face coverings.
“We will supply a face covering if you don’t have one,” store officials wrote.
Additionally, each store will have a dedicated customer experience host at the front of the store to help direct customers, answer questions and manage any lines.
“We will continue to limit the number of customers allowed in stores at a time throughout the holiday season. Each store will follow all local guidelines and we will allow a limited maximum capacity to allow for the CDC-recommended social distancing guidelines,” Best Buy officials said.
Further, stickers will be placed on the floor of stores and outside to indicate social distancing guidelines and customers who need help from employees will remain in a digital queue while they wait.
“As we’ve said, Black Friday isn’t just one day this year – it’s months-long,” Best Buy said in a statement.