The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urged people to avoid shopping in crowded stores post-Thanksgiving back in September.
That warning has not deterred some Black Friday shoppers.
The CDC’s website lists “going shopping in crowded stores just before, on, or after Thanksgiving,” among its higher risk activities for contracting COVID-19. Instead, the CDC recommends online shopping.
Despite that warning, some stores saw large crowds gather as early as Thursday evening. A GameStop in Orlando, Florida, already had people lining up at 5 p.m. on Thursday. Similar crowds lined up at a Best Buy in Gurnee, Illinois, and a Walmart in New Jersey. Tysons Corner Center in Virginia also drew long lines before it opened Friday morning.
Black Friday is usually the busiest shopping day of the year. In 2019, it kicked off a holiday retail season of $730 billion in sales, a 4.1% increase over the previous year. The National Retail Federation is predicting an even bigger 2020, with sales between $755 billion to $766 billion.
However, the pandemic was expected to reduce crowds this year. Indeed, many areas of the country reported small crowds Friday, with people apparently preferring to shop online. Stores in Minneapolis and St. Paul reported only a trickle of shoppers an hour after opening. One customer in Niles, Illinois, called the scene “pretty dead” as she waited outside a Walmart, according to the Chicago Tribune.
In response, many retailers have overhauled customers’ Black Friday experience. Walmart is limiting the number of people in their stores and will be distributing sanitized shopping carts. Best Buy is offering contactless curbside pickup.
Target’s website allows shoppers to see if a local store has a line of shoppers outside. If so, a customer can reserve a spot and will receive a text when it is his or her turn. A quick check of the website using a Washington, D.C., zip code around 1 p.m. Friday found no lines at any Target stores.