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Black Friday in the midst of a pandemic: first offers and measures to avoid the “rush of buyers” | Market basket

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MISHAWAKA Atop a jewelry counter window in the heart of the JC Penney department store last week, a sign read Black Friday Now!

Similar messages are displayed in other department stores in University Park Mall. Large, stand-alone signs reading Black Friday Deals, in bold black and red letters, are strategically placed inside Macys, and Aeropostale has Black. Friday. Each. Day. displayed at its entrance.

The discounts, ranging from 20% to 50%, encourage shoppers to shop for vacation long before Black Friday, which already looks different this year amid the coronavirus pandemic. The deals are being offered much earlier, in part to avoid a crush of people gathering the day after Thanksgiving.

In 2020, Black Friday lasts essentially two months, said Mitchell Olsen, professor of marketing at Mendoza College of Business at the University of Notre Dame. It’s hard to oversee a rush of socially distant buyers. Because of this and all of the uncertainty surrounding holiday shopping this year, retailers want to make sales while keeping employees and consumers safe.

In recent years, traditional Black Friday events, with shoppers lining up early in the morning for the best discounts, have declined in popularity. More and more consumers have chosen to shop online, but some die-hard Black Friday shoppers have still participated in the name of tradition.

With this year’s pandemic, Dr. Mark Fox, assistant physician for St. Joseph County, hopes the tradition will change.

My impression, as someone who typically doesn’t buy on Black Friday, is that for a lot of people, getting the best deal is a sport, he said. They have to approach it differently this year.

Fox encourages those who wish to shop in person to limit the time spent in and around large crowds. He also recalled wearing masks, staying six feet from others and staying home if you are sick.

In an attempt to satisfy consumers’ desires for bargains, while limiting the risk of large crowds being exposed, many retailers began advertising Black Friday sales as early as mid-October. Amazon Prime Day’s newly adjusted dates essentially kicked off the holiday shopping season, and other retailers have responded by covering the dates of the sale.

Morning Willow owner Andrea Weaver began announcing her Black Friday deals last week in a call to reach consumers who are planning to buy now. The local women’s clothing store is inside the UP Mall. Weaver said that with the pandemic, the pace of in-store traffic has been slower, and she can’t wait to see how Black Friday actually unfolds.

I don’t know what to expect if it’s going to be drunk or if it’s going to be calm, she said. Guess I’ll just have to wait and see and go from there.

The National Retail Federation launched a nationwide consumer education campaign earlier this year, encouraging people to shop earlier and more safely due to the pandemic. Retailers like Best Buy, Simon Properties, Target, Walmart, and Ulta Beauty are choosing to shut down on Thanksgiving Day. Best Buy and Simon Properties, which operates UP Mall, still plan to open early Friday morning, but today’s discounts may not be worth the risk for some consumers, retail expert Olsen said.

In-store safety will be a priority for consumers, he said. And the level of safety precautions that retailers take or don’t take will be considered. It’s not just a question of discounts this year.

To reach more consumers who prefer to shop online, retailers like Morning Willow and Meijer have started offering the same sales online as in person. Meijer announced that its Black Friday discounts will start Sunday and run throughout the week, with curbside pickup and delivery options as well.

Our effort to offer all of these different options is to meet customers where they are at with their needs, said Meijer spokesperson Gretchen Dillree.

But with the same offers available online as in stores, that leaves little appeal to in-person shoppers other than the immediate satisfaction of having an item on hand.

There is always something very sweet knowing you have it in your hands rather than waiting and seeing, said Meijer spokesperson Joe Hirschmugl.

By extending retail vacations, stores also hope to ease pressures on the supply chain. In some cases, delivery dates are already delayed due to demand.

This is the year that last-minute shoppers like me need to pull themselves together, Olsen said.

But since shoppers are still expected to come out on Black Friday, retailers are considering ways to protect security.

About a week ago, for example, Walmart resumed monitoring and counting the number of customers entering its stores to ensure that it did not exceed capacity limits in light of the growing number of positivity rates. coronaviruses. The retailer began restricting the number of visitors to the store in April, but stopped physically counting people as they walked in and out.

We know from months of count data in our stores that the vast majority of the time our stores have not reached our self-imposed 20% count capacity, a Walmart spokesperson told CNBC in a statement. press release sent by email. To be on the safe side, we have started counting the number of people entering and leaving our stores again.

The impact of Black Friday on retailers this year will likely be measured with different metrics, in light of COVID-19, Olsen said. And, like many retail experts, he’s eager to see how this will affect shopping culture in the future.

It’s a great experience this year and we’ll wait to see the results in January, he said. If the results are good and (retailers) achieve it with less stress on their supply chain and employees, I would expect the same to be true for the future.

While Weaver wouldn’t define the current holiday shopping season as a critical moment for his business, the need for it to be profitable in an already tough time for small businesses is palpable.

This is still a big deal for my business with the current pandemic and traffic in the mall has been reduced as a result, Weaver said. So I am counting on the next few months to introduce myself.

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