Black Friday crowds thin amid pandemic fears and online deals

The CDC deemed going shopping in crowded stores a 'high risk activity'

The retail bonanza known as Black Friday has traditionally included hordes of amped-up consumers creating lots of mayhem as they curse, shove, and sometimes punch their way to amazing post Thanksgiving deals.

But this year, due to the spike in COVID-19 cases, American shoppers were much less enthused and turned up at malls in smaller numbers than previous years.

On November 19, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) deemed going shopping in crowded stores, just before, on, or after Thanksgiving, a “high risk activity.”

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Malls around the country and major retailers like Walmart and Best Buy did their best to prepare for the typically busy shopping day, while also adhering to recommended safety measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

Walmart opened its doors at 5 a.m. on Friday with workers directing shoppers on how to maintain social distancing. Best Buy also opened at 5 a.m., offering temperature checks to shoppers as well as recommending “grab and go merchandise” to discourage lingering in store aisles.

Walmart (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Bill Park, a partner at Deloitte and Touche LP estimated that traffic at King of Prussia mall outside Philadelphia had decreased about 20-30% compared to last year.

“I’m surprised at the traffic. It’s down a little bit, but heavier than I thought,” Park said. He noted, however, that shoppers were not loaded down with packages as they tended to be on Black Fridays in the past.

Long lines weren’t much of an issue this year, but stores selling popular computer game consoles had some of the longest lines as gamers tried to snag Sony Corp’s PlayStation 5 and other consoles like it.

Read More: Walmart to spread out deals to avoid Black Friday crowds

Roger Mustafa, 37, waited outside a Manhattan GameStop for two days. Finally, with a huge smile on his face, the Bronx resident left the store with a PS5 in a plastic bag. It cost him $544 and a tremendous amount of sleep.

During this pandemic-ridden year, upscale department store, Nordstrom, has seen it’s sales tumble, according to Reuters. Doing their part to keep shoppers and employees safe, Nordstrom offered customers a $15 gift card if they picked up packages curbside at their store.

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

“Most companies have had 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.

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