Pandemic fears, online deals thin U.S. Black Friday crowds

By Melissa Fares NEW YORK (Reuters) - Masked shoppers turned up in smaller numbers at major U.S. retailers including Macy's Inc, Walmart Inc and Best Buy Co Inc on Black Friday as early online deals and worry about the spike in COVID-19 cases dulled enthusiasm for trips to the mall.

Reuters November 28, 2020 00:06:23 IST
Pandemic fears, online deals thin U.S. Black Friday crowds

Pandemic fears online deals thin US Black Friday crowds

By Melissa Fares

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Masked shoppers turned up in smaller numbers at major U.S. retailers including Macy's Inc, Walmart Inc and Best Buy Co Inc on Black Friday as early online deals and worry about the spike in COVID-19 cases dulled enthusiasm for trips to the mall.

Retailers overhauled the traditionally busy shopping day that comes the day after Thanksgiving. Walmart opened stores at 5 a.m. on Friday, directing shoppers to turn right upon entering and proceed along main aisles to shop deals before paying at registers surrounded by plastic barriers.

Best Buy opened at 5 a.m., employing workers in can't miss orange vests to serve as traffic cops. Others offered temperature checks and "grab-and-go" merchandise, including toys, bikes and kitchen appliances to discourage lingering in store aisles.

Bill Park, a partner at Deloitte & Touche LP, estimated traffic at the King of Prussia mall outside of Philadelphia was down about 20-30% compared to last year.

“I’m surprised at the traffic. It’s down a little bit but heavier than I thought,” he said but noted shoppers were not loaded down with packages.

Elsewhere, shoppers with empty carts lined up a socially-distant six feet apart before the Walmart in LaGrange, Kentucky opened, but crowds appeared down overall. Stores selling popular computer game consoles had some of the longest lines as gamers tried to land Sony Corp's PlayStation 5.

Brothers-in-law Gabriel Rojas, 24 and Juan Cabrera, 24 were waiting in line at GameStop in New York's Bronx borough, since 2 a.m. on Friday, hopeful to snatch up a PS5. They were unsuccessful as there were some 20 people ahead of them and the retailer only had two left in stock, they said.

“We're bummed” said Rojas. “But that’s ok.”

Some had better luck.

Roger Mustafa, 37, walked out of a Manhattan GameStop with a PS5 in a plastic bag and a huge smile on his face. It cost him $544 and a lot of sleep.

“I’ve been waiting outside of GameStop for two days,” said Bronx resident Mustafa. “Now I’m going to go home and get some sleep.”

At Macy's New York flagship, Asuncion Peralta, 77, said she was not afraid to shop because she had COVID-19 antibodies.

"I’ve been waiting for this day for a long time to buy towels and sheets, everything else that I need,” said Peralta. “These prices are not Black Friday prices. I came here two days ago and the deals were better.”

DEALS ONLINE

During this pandemic-ridden year, retailers from Target Corp to Kohl’s Corp and Walmart  rolled out online winter holiday promotions in October to capture any holiday-related spending as early as possible.

Upscale department store operator Nordstrom, which has seen its sales tumble in the pandemic, offered customers a $15 gift card if they picked up packages curbside at their stores.

Overall, the National Retail Federation (NRF) forecasts U.S. holiday retail sales will increase between 3.6% and 5.2% over 2019, for a total of $755.3 billion to $766.7 billion. That compares with an average annual increase of 2.5% over the past five years.

On Nov. 19, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) deemed "going shopping in crowded stores just before, on, or after Thanksgiving" as a high-risk activity.

Target employee Seth Schaffer, 22, from Lufkin, Texas, said shoppers in his store appeared less concerned about taking precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 .

“Deep east Texas isn’t the type of place where you’ll see everyone respecting mask policies or avoiding close contact.”

Adobe Analytics expects Black Friday and Cyber Monday 2020 to still become the two largest online sales days in history, with Black Friday online sales between $8.9 billion and $10.6 billion.

Melissa Bloss, who works at a bank in Rapid City, South Dakota. said she plans to do all her shopping online this year.

“Most companies have been having sales throughout the month. I really don’t have a need to rush out when I can get the same deal a week later,” she said.

(Reporting by Melissa Fares in New York; Additional reporting by Richa Naidu in Chicago, James Davey in London and Aishwarya Venugopal in Bengaluru; Editing by Vanessa O'Connell, Louise Heavens and Nick Zieminski)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

Updated Date:

TAGS:

Find latest and upcoming tech gadgets online on Tech2 Gadgets. Get technology news, gadgets reviews & ratings. Popular gadgets including laptop, tablet and mobile specifications, features, prices, comparison.

also read

No diplomatic ties to Qatar yet, but trade, travel resuming, says UAE
World

No diplomatic ties to Qatar yet, but trade, travel resuming, says UAE

By Lisa Barrington DUBAI (Reuters) - Arab states boycotting Qatar could resume travel and trade links with Doha within a week under a U.S.-backed deal, but restoring diplomatic ties requires more time as parties work to rebuild trust, a United Arab Emirates official said on Thursday. Gulf powerhouse Saudi Arabia announced the breakthrough in ending a bitter dispute at a summit on Tuesday, with its foreign minister saying Riyadh and its allies would restore all ties with Doha severed in mid-2017. UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash told a virtual news conference that measures to be implemented within a week of the agreement "include practical measures of airlines, shipping and trade".

U.S. airlines, airports tighten security in DC-area after unrest
World

U.S. airlines, airports tighten security in DC-area after unrest

By Tracy Rucinski (Reuters) - U.S airlines and law enforcement agencies have bolstered security at Washington-area airports on Thursday after supporters of President Donald Trump caused mayhem in the U.S. capital in an attempt to overturn his election loss.

'He hasn't even called us': Pelosi says Capitol Police chief should resign
World

'He hasn't even called us': Pelosi says Capitol Police chief should resign

By Jonathan Landay, Patricia Zengerle and David Morgan WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Speaker Nancy Pelosi called on Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund to resign on Thursday, after officers of the federal force charged with protecting Congress allowed supporters of President Donald Trump to storm the Capitol, sending lawmakers fleeing