What Does a Coronavirus Black Friday Look Like?

Tuesday, November 24, 2020 4:12 PM | Neal Farmer

The holiday season, just like everything else, is being heavily impacted by the coronavirus and the various measures to try to control it.

Many families are avoiding large gatherings for Thanksgiving with daily new COVID-19 cases surpassing 175,000 in the United States.

Christmas shopping will no doubt look very different this year as well. It seems like large online retailers have the most to gain from the current situation. Still, we won’t know exactly how shoppers will behave this season but Black Friday should give a little sneak peek into what that will look like.

Black Friday is generally considered the start of the holiday season. However, Black Friday is often a time when people shop for themselves as opposed to purchasing gifts for others. Additionally, Black Friday has tended to be more focused on big-box retailers where people actually physically go to shop while the online shopping is left for the follow Monday, which has recently become known as Cyber Monday.

In recent years, we've seen more and more offers for online deals as retailers have moved away from massive sales that lead to shoppers camping outside stores on Thanksgiving waiting for stores to open.

Who is Open?

Many large department stores are already planning a Black Friday event more focused on online shopping and limiting the number of people stores. Additionally, many companies are choosing to extend their sales over multiple days to avoid mass gatherings on just one day that may run afoul of social distancing guidelines. Walmart (WMT), Target (TGT), and Best Buy (BBY) will all be closed for Thanksgiving after the retailers had started their Black Friday sales on Thursday in recent years. These giants will have their usual Black Friday sales starting very early in the morning, but those are now being accompanied by online sales that have already begun. Online shoppers can organize a curb-side pick up of their products from the physical stores if they don't want to wait for items to be shipped.

Online vs In-Person

Overall it seems as though retailers are trying to push for more online shopping while also fully preparing for and going through with in-person Black Friday sales. While CDC has referenced shopping around Thanksgiving as a higher-risk activity, many people are still expected to shop in person on Friday. Thirty-six percent of Americans say they expect to shop in-person on Friday according to a 1,000 person survey run by Suzy. The same survey found that 59% of people expect to shop online. There will assuredly be fewer in-person shoppers this Black Friday but the tradition will continue and the gain in online sales might be enough to match previous years for some retailers.

Sneak Peak of Christmas Shopping

What might this say about Christmas shopping? Well, it is probably safe to assume that in-person shopping will see a significant decline from last year but maybe not as much as many believe. While many people will simply do their shopping online and minimize the chance of contracting coronavirus, these same individuals are likely the ones who already were doing the large part of their shopping on Amazon (AMZN).

Just like many other things, coronavirus has seemingly had the effect of fast forwarding already shifts in behavior, such as moving towards online shopping or remote work. Should retailers actually see a boost in retail sales on Black Friday compared to previous years, that trend should hold through to the holiday season. Many businesses are sure to put more focus on their online holiday sales and promotions while still leaving physical locations open. Any holiday promotions will likely be extended in an effort to minimize mass gatherings and promote increased shopping.

Wrapping Up

The holidays are going to be very different this year and hopefully 2021 goes a whole lot better than this wild ride of 2020. Even so, the show must go on and shoppers will still be camping outside Best Buy to get the best deal on a new TVn. The real winner though, is the online retailer laughing with their smiley logo as they offer free two-day shipping to the millions of Americans searching for the perfect gift.

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