Local stores prepare for a different Black Friday during pandemic

The traditional kickoff to the busy holiday shopping season on Friday won’t look the same this year.

The crowds are expected to be smaller. Sales won’t be as prominent. And kids won’t get to sit on Santa’s lap for photos.

But still Black Friday remains an important day for retailers as it kicks off a month of holiday sales that the National Federation of Retailers says leads to nearly 20 percent of all retail sales for the year.

Stores and area malls have been preparing to safely welcome shoppers that still want to shop in person on Black Friday. Although it has been predicted to be a year spent online shopping, retailers are gearing up for the holiday shopping tradition.

While most stores began deals online as early as October, some shoppers are preparing to hit the stores for major markdowns on Black Friday. And Gordon Gough, CEO and president of the Ohio Council of Retail Merchants said those looking to shop in stores can expect safe conditions if they follow safety guidelines and wear their masks.

“Really since the pandemic has begun our central retailers have been practicing the social distancing, all the CDC guidelines, and the state of Ohio guidelines. Our members who were not essential had a longer runway to get prepared for reopening back in May so the stores in Ohio are very safe,” he said.

Both the Dayton Mall and the Mall at Fairfield Commons have implemented guidelines of their own as part of their code of conduct to ensure a safe shopping experience. In addition to social distancing and wearing masks, they ask shoppers not to gather in groups and adhere to individual store policies as well as state protocol for COVID-19 prevention.

“We are looking forward to offering guests a chance to enjoy holiday traditions while taking important safety precautions,” said Leanne Rubosky general manager of The Mall at Fairfield Commons in a statement. “The health and safety of our guests, retailers and employees is our top priority and we are adhering to the latest state and local guidelines to keep the best interest of our guests’ health and safety in mind.”

The Dayton Mall and the Mall at Fairfield Commons will open at 6 a.m. on Friday. The Greene Town Center opens at 8 a.m.

The Dayton Mall is working to bring back more foot traffic during the Coronavirus pandemic. MARSHALL GORBY\STAFF
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The Dayton Mall is working to bring back more foot traffic during the Coronavirus pandemic. MARSHALL GORBY\STAFF

Credit:

Credit:

Cindy Wilson of Centerville said she still plans to go out to stores on Friday.

“I won’t be spending as much time as I have in the past, but I still look forward to it. I probably just play it by ear. If I see a long line, I just won’t go in,” Wilson said.

Santa visits this year will be different. Parents are encouraged to make a reservation for their children. Santa will be wearing a mask and will listen to children’s wish lists, but they can’t sit on his lap for a traditional photo.

Historically people have shown up to shop for deeply discounted items in record setting numbers, but this year stores will control the number of customers inside.

“Due to COVID-19, the need to reimagine how we’re addressing holiday crowd sizes is something we’re taking seriously. To help, Walmart has developed a month-long Black Friday schedule of shopping events, specials and sales designed to give customers ample time and opportunity to get their shopping done safely,” said Charles Crowson, a Walmart spokesman.

ExplorePandemic threatens holiday shopping season

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has pushed many customers out of stores and online to do their everyday shopping and the same is true for the holiday. Walmart spread out its Black Friday Deals for Days over three events with the first one beginning Nov. 4. The final event will begin online on Nov. 25 at 7 p.m. Additional deals on electronics, clothes and home items will be offered in store at 5 a.m. on Black Friday.

“I think that numbers could be lower this year not that there are less shoppers per say but some shoppers may choose to purchase only online. Stores will be practicing social distancing and putting markers on the floor and if they’re waiting for customers to leave and enter the store, there will be spots marked off out front so people can social distance,” Gough said.

Some stores, including WalMart, will change the flow of traffic inside the store to keep crowds organized. “Instead of multiple queue lines this year, after entering the store, customers will be directed to the right and down the main aisles to shop all the deals,” Crowson said.

Gough said shoppers can use alternate forms of shopping and delivery including curbside and contactless pick up for those that don’t want to enter the store. According to the CDC website, it is a suggested method of shopping this year to lower the risk of contracting or spreading the Coronavirus.

Those shopping at the Dayton area malls can also participate in curbside pick up through their Retail To-Go programs. A list of participating stores can be found on their website.

Best Buy is offering curbside pick up for customers before and after store hours to be prepared within an hour. The store opens its doors at 5 a.m. but like most stores, their sales have started online. Customers can shop for televisions, computers, and kitchen appliances online and instore prior to Black Friday.

Creative signage at Zumiez at the Mall at Fairfield Commons communicates that masks are required in the story and limits shoppers to no more than 10 at a time.
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Creative signage at Zumiez at the Mall at Fairfield Commons communicates that masks are required in the story and limits shoppers to no more than 10 at a time.

Credit: Josh Sweigart

Credit: Josh Sweigart

Target’s Black Friday Now deals started at the beginning of November and will continue through to Nov. 28 to include electronics, kitchen appliances, toys and video games.

“We just ask consumers to be patient and know that we are in a pandemic and we are going to do everything we can to make their experience fast, safe, and pleasant,” Gough said.

ExploreThanksgiving and Black Friday store hours

In the past stores opened on Thanksgiving Day in the evening or early the next day. Majority of stores have announced that they won’t open on Thursday for Thanksgiving to give their employees time at home. Retailers have started their sales online to give shoppers a chance to get items earlier from the comfort of their homes.

Walmart and Target will be closed the entire Thanksgiving Day and reopening on Black Friday. Both retailers have spent the entire month of November encouraging shoppers to shop their Black Friday deals online.

The National Retail Federation forecast that holiday sales during November and December will increase between 3.6 percent and 5.2 percent over 2019 to a total between $755.3 billion and $766.7 billion. The numbers, which exclude automobile dealers, gasoline stations and restaurants, compare with a 4 percent increase to $729.1 billion last year and an average holiday sales increase of 3.5 percent over the past five years.

NRF expects that online and other non-store sales, which are included in the total, will increase between 20 percent and 30 percent to between $202.5 billion and $218.4 billion, up from $168.7 billion last year.