GREENSBORO, N.C. — The American tradition of "Black Friday" shopping will look different this year in stores like Walmart, Best Buy, and Target due to the coronavirus pandemic, as health officials warn against crowds gathering for the yearly shopping extravaganza.
Retailers are emphasizing online and curbside delivery, issuing guidance against "camping out" to secure your spot in line, and expanding deals across several weeks to discourage crowds from spreading COVID-19. Stores are almost universally touting they will take the usual precautions, from mask requirements to sanitizing surfaces and limiting the number of shoppers inside stores at one time.
North Carolina state health officials “strongly recommend” that people do not participate in traditional Black Friday shopping, including waiting outside for stores to open and spending time inside crowded stores.
In fact, the NCDHHS has even issued special guidelines for Black Friday, which encourages people to opt for online shopping, curbside pick-up, shopping during less crowded hours, and checking to see if stores have designated hours for high-risk people. They also recommend sanitizing shopping carts, using touchless payment methods, and avoid crowded places with special events like Santa Claus visits.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has labeled shopping in crowded stores, like on Black Friday, as a “higher risk activity” for spreading the coronavirus.
Greensboro’s Friendly Center has made changes, too. Santa will arrive on Black Friday, but this year visits will be contactless with masks and require online reservations.
Consumer Reports recommends that people start planning their holiday shopping earlier this year, due to shipping delays from resource-stretched delivery services. Because so many people are shifting their purchases from in-person to online, this year’s holiday season has been called “shipageddon.”
The electronics mega-store Best Buy will be closed this year on Thanksgiving Day, and is discouraging shoppers from “camping out” on Black Friday in front of stores to secure their spot in line.
“Because of the current pandemic, COVID-19, Best Buy does not recommend that our customers camp out at stores prior to Black Friday. Local health guidelines do prevent gatherings of certain sizes and camping is in conflict with those guidelines,” a Best Buy FAQ advises.
Certain deals are available all month long in November — in stores and online.
Best Buy has transitioned all store pickups to curbside pickup, including availability before and after regular store hours. The retailer is also only selling newly released gaming consoles from Playstation and Xbox online.
Walmart is spreading out its deals across three weekends in November, instead of only the traditional Black Friday event and online matching deals.
On Black Friday 2020, all Walmart stores will open at 5 a.m.
“Customers will form a single, straight line to enter the store. Associates will hand out sanitized shopping carts to customers to help with social distancing, and Health Ambassadors will be placed at entrances to greet customers and remind them to put on a mask,” Walmart said in a statement.
Customers will also be counted to reduce numbers and cut down on crowds, and directed to shop down the right-hand side of aisles.
New this year, retail giant is also allowing customers to pick up online purchases on Black Friday through curbside pick-up.
Target is trying to innovate on Black Friday 2020, including with online reservations to save your spot in line, and employees using handheld checkout devices to let people pay right in the aisle. Target will be closed on Thanksgiving Day.
The retailer is also stretching out its deals across the entire week and month of November. Target is extending its price match guarantee through December 24th. It’s also expanding curbside pickup options, like other big box stores.
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