Black Friday Amidst COVID-19

By on November 25, 2020 0 752Views

Gone are the days when local news stations would broadcast footage of crowds pouring into big-box stores right after Thanksgiving dinner.

In a time when in-person gatherings are risky, retailers are moving away from Black Friday as a single day of deals and making discounts available over an extended period of time. The COVID-19 pandemic has also accelerated the transition of Black Friday from being an in-store experience to an online shopping event.

“This year is far different than years past,” Gabrielle Ochoa, general manager for the Tanger Outlets Westgate said.

For the first time, the outlet in Glendale will be closed for Thanksgiving. While there will be a “Great Tanger Friday” the day after Thanksgiving, stores have been offering deals since Nov. 6 to prevent a rush of Black Friday shoppers.

Other malls and stores have similar month long deals as a safety precaution.

The Arizona Department of Health Services lists “shopping at a mall” as a “moderate” risk activity during COVID-19, though whether indoors or outdoors is not specified.

As of Nov. 17, COVID-19 cases per 100,000 individuals, hospital visits for COVID-like illnesses and percent positivity had been rising in Arizona since September. Spread of the coronavirus had been classified as “moderate” in Maricopa County as of ADHS’ most recent update on Nov. 12.

Here are four ways stores are adapting for Black Friday in metro Phoenix amidst the COVID-19 Pandemic:

Employees and shoppers alike can take a break on Thanksgiving as major retailers such as Walmart, Costco, Best Buy and Target are closed for the national holiday.

While this isn’t unusual for stores such as Costco and Apple, the move marks a change for Walmart, Target and Best Buy.

A number of metro Phoenix malls will not be open Thanksgiving Day, including:

  • Scottsdale Fashion Square, 7014 E. Camelback Rd., Scottsdale.
  • Biltmore Fashion Park, 2502 E. Camelback Rd., Phoenix.
  • Tanger Outlets Westgate, 6800 N. 95th Ave., Glendale.
  • Kierland Commons, 15205 N. Kierland Blvd., Scottsdale.
  • Chandler Fashion Center, 3111 W. Chandler Blvd., Chandler.
  • Phoenix Premium Outlets, 4976 Premium Outlet Way, Chandler.
  • Outlets at Anthem, 4250 W. Anthem Way, Phoenix.

Several nationwide stores with multiple Valley locations that will be closed include:

  • Walmart
  • Target
  • Dick’s Sporting Goods
  • Best Buy
  • Kohl’s
  • Office Depot
  • Home Depot
  • Apple
  • Costco

Black Friday isn’t a single day this year; it’s a season.

At Tanger Outlets, the “best deals of the season” began Nov. 6 in an effort to expand the timeframe of Black Friday, Ochoa said.

Best Buy, Target and Walmart have also rolled out deals throughout the month.

“By spreading deals out across multiple days and making our hottest deals available online, we expect the Black Friday experience in our stores will be safer and more manageable for both our customers and our associates,” Scott McCall, executive vice president and chief merchandising officer for Walmart U.S., said in a statement.

Walmart announced three weeks of Black Friday events throughout November, called “Black Friday Deals for Days.” Each “savings event” begins online before shoppers can find the deals — along with additional sales — in stores.

When customers go to in-store events, several precautions are implemented.

“Customers will form a single, straight line to enter the store. Associates will hand out sanitized shopping carts to customers to help with social distancing, and Health Ambassadors will be placed at entrances to greet customers and remind them to put on a mask,” a press release reads.

In September, Home Depot introduced nearly two months of deals in stores and online. Kohl’s is offering a week of Black Friday deals as well.

Besides offering sales outside of Nov. 27, stores are making it possible for customers to avoid going inside the store altogether.

Scottsdale Fashion Square has “new options for getting your shopping list completed, including more curbside pickup, dining takeout and in-store pickup,” a representative said.

Walmart is also offering contact-free curbside pickup for Black Friday sales for the first time this year.

Tanger Outlets offers three ways to shop, Ochoa said, including in-store browsing, curbside pickup and virtual shopping. Through Tanger Virtual Shopper, customers can fill out a form and request that a personal shopper find a specific product or browse styles for them. Their orders can then be picked up curbside or delivered.

ADHS recommends that Arizonans “order online or use curbside pickup where possible.”

The size of any lines outside stores this year will look exaggerated due to social distancing measures.

At Scottsdale Fashion Square, there are “updated wellness protocols that include intensified cleaning and sanitizing, plus use of electrostatic sprayers” as well as a “high-quality HVAC system with hospital-grade filtration,” according to a representative.

The mall will also implement local requirements for face coverings and enforcing social distancing in queues. The same goes for Tanger Outlets.

“We require masks throughout our entire portfolio,” Ochoa said of Tanger Outlets’ face covering policy.

At Walmart, capacity will be reduced to maintain distancing and “Customers will be directed to shop down the right-hand side of aisles to be able to easily — and safely — select the Black Friday items they’re interested in purchasing.”

ADHS recommends staying 6 feet away from others while shopping and waiting in lines, going during off-peak hours, staying home if you are in an at-risk group, avoiding touching your nose, eyes and mouth, and using hand sanitizer or washing your hands after leaving a store.

ADHS also recommends closing fitting rooms and sanitizing high-touch surfaces as well as always wearing a mask in public.

Maricopa County has a mandate that requires people ages 6 and older to wear face coverings that fully cover their noses and mouths while “inside the enclosed area of any Place of Public Accommodation.”