"Maybe not Black Friday, but black November," a new pandemic normal during the usual post-Thanksgiving shopping blitz

Richard Reeve
Updated: November 27, 2020 10:13 PM
Created: November 27, 2020 09:06 PM

On a Black Friday unlike any other, shoppers are dealing with a new pandemic normal. 

"As long as people are covered, and you're keeping six feet away, you're okay," says Isaias Zamarripa, among those waiting in line outside a Richfield Best Buy. 

In some ways, the afternoon crowds resembled the usual post-Thanksgiving shopping rush: lines of shoppers wrapped around big box stores, mini-traffic jams, and the hunt for a parking space. 

But the presence of face-masks, safe-distancing and curbside pickup made clear there are COVID-19 concerns. 

"Yes, I will probably buy some more online, try to avoid stores, and here I am on line," smiles Julie Gottesleben, of Minneapolis. 

Gottesleben patiently read her book as she waited her turn to enter. 

All the while wondering if in-person shopping is a good plan.  
 
"We're supposed to be staying home, and it's a really good idea," she said quietly. "Because I'm at the age where it would be more of a concern. I really don't like big crowds." 

But in the early morning hours, it was a different story. 

Outside one Bloomington Walmart, and at the Gamestop nearby, the usual early morning crowds were nowhere to be seen. 

At the Gamestop, a few hardy gamers had camped out overnight--- but in far fewer numbers than normal. 

Black Friday offers beacon of hope to struggling stores

"We've been waiting here for eight hours," declared shopper Aidan Yorks. "I want to get a Playstation. The line starts over there." 

At the Mall of America early Friday, shoppers lined up and were allowed to walk inside in single file. 

A big difference from the hundreds of shoppers packing the parking lots in years past. 

Mall managers reminded incoming customers that safe distancing measures are in place. 

"It's a big space, so lot of opportunity to social distance and shop safely," Chris Grab, an MOA spokesperson told 5 Eyewitness News. "But if you go to a store, and there happens to be a line, there are social distance markers along the way, so you know where you should be waiting. There are hundreds of hand sanitizers throughout the buildings." 

Kim Sovell, an adjunct marketing professor at the University of St. Thomas, says that shoppers will see more such changes. 

"X's on sidewalks and into the stores. It's all in part allowing retailers to control the flow of individuals, of consumers," she explains. "With customers' hesitancy to go into stores and to be in crowds, my guess is, they're going to be shopping online." 

A wallethub.com study found that 70% of consumers "are not likely, or somewhat unlikely to shop on Black Friday."

Sovell says a big part of this is because retail giants like Amazon, along with some big box stores, have been offering online deals for weeks. 

"So we're seeing huge increases in actually not being black Friday, but maybe black November because we've seen these sales roll out really since Amazon did their October prime day," she says. 

And the big box stores are benefiting. 

The National Retail Federation and digitalcommerce360.com say Walmart's online sales are up 79% in recent weeks.

Target's e-commerce is up 155%, and Best Buy, up 174%., those surveys say. 

Shoppers say they're seeing the difference. 

"It's a lot different," says Fred Bello, of Bloomington. "It's less people than other years, you know. I think a lot of people are taking more precautions, stay safe inside, you know?"

While some Best Buy shoppers were waiting in a curbside line for an hour--- with the option to save time by waiting in person outside--- others are having a bit of buyer's remorse. 

"I don't really think it was really worth coming out and going to a store," Bello says. "You wait so long, and you don't actually get what you want, and you're risking yourself."


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