Crowds appeared smaller and lines seemed shorter, but shoppers still awoke early on Black Friday for deals and tradition.
Retailers expected that 2020 would bring a subdued Black Friday, as coronavirus cases soar across the United States. Customers cautious about contracting the virus are expected to shop from home, accelerating the existing trend toward e-commerce. In parts of the country, public health rules now restrict stores from welcoming the hordes of customers that have defined the start of the holiday shopping season.
But those concerns and restrictions did not deter some shoppers from getting an early start.
Shayla Menendez, 14, and her family pulled into the parking lot at Citadel Outlets at 4:30, a.m., when the sky was still pitch black. She wore blue latex gloves and a pink patterned mask with a second cloth face covering peeking out at the edge — extra protection “only for today,” she said.
Stores opened at 6 a.m.; soon after Menendez bought a Michael Kors wallet for her mom, now buried beneath the morning’s other purchases at the bottom of a Gap shopping bag. “She’ll love it,” Menendez said.
Those who arrived early in Commerce to beat the usual lines found this year just a thin stream of people filing into the outdoor shopping center. Stores in Los Angeles County must limit occupancy to 25%, creating queues of shoppers, mostly keeping socially distanced, outside the doors of popular locations.
“It’s much shorter and it’s moving more quickly,” said Gladys Delgado, 50, who stood in line outside Michael Kors with her daughter Adriana.
Adriana was worried about the spread of the coronavirus among the crowds of Black Friday shoppers but felt comforted after researching the safety precautions stores have rolled out.
Her mother was less bothered.
“People have been respectful in this area about wearing masks and keeping their distance. If they weren’t doing that, we could just leave,” Gladys Delgado said.
They get up early to go shopping on Black Friday every year.
“It’s tradition,” Gladys Delgado said, and it’s especially important to “get out and get some fresh air” this year with the pandemic taking away so many of their usual activities.
Family customs motivated many shoppers Friday morning.
As the sun rose over Union Square in San Francisco, Noah Bartoni, 19, of Fairfield sipped Starbucks with his aunt and uncle and watched from the fourth-floor Macy’s windows. For years, it’s been “family tradition” for Bartoni and his siblings to join his aunt and uncle for Black Friday shopping. This year, “I get all the attention to myself,” he joked.
And this year, Macy’s was quiet.
“We’re always right down there in the cold from 5 a.m. waiting in line,” Bartoni said as he gazed at the street below.
Such scenes reflect the expectations of many in the retail industry. But they don’t necessarily mean a dive in holiday spending.
Online shopping hit a new Thanksgiving Day record, according to data from Adobe Analytics, jumping 21.5% from last year to $5.1 billion. Adobe forecasts online spending to hit $8.9 billion on Black Friday, a jump of 20% from last year. The National Retail Federation predicted last week that November-to-December holiday sales, both in-store and online, would range from $755.3 billion to $766.7 billion — a year-over-year uptick of 3.6% to 5.2%.
Back at Citadel Outlets, some shoppers said they were motivated by discounts.
Last year, Lesley Aragon, 22, couldn’t even make it to the outlet mall because of a traffic jam just getting into the parking lot. This year, the San Gabriel Valley resident found a spot in line outside the Nike store when she arrived at the mall at 4:30 a.m.
With merchandise 30% off, she purchased six pairs of leggings and sweatpants.
“Their stuff is so high priced usually,” she said.
Shopping during the pandemic isn’t like previous years, she said, with everyone masked and hand sanitizer dispensers standing sentry at store doors.
“We’re not touching anything we don’t have to,” Aragon said. “It’s a whole different vibe this year.”