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Retailers hurt by coronavirus pandemic set sights on Black Friday

Retailers hurt by coronavirus pandemic set sights on Black Friday
© Jeenah Moon/Getty Images

Retailers, who took a financial hit because of the coronavirus pandemic and its associated shutdowns, are setting their sights on Black Friday, cautiously hopeful for a day of improved sales.

Businesses are looking to the usual busiest shopping day of the year to boost low sales. But this Black Friday is expected to see more online purchases amid the coronavirus pandemic rather than millions of in-person shoppers. 

Many businesses broke from recent years’ traditions of staying open on Thanksgiving and starting Black Friday sales early and instead increased safety regulations for Friday so customers will show, The Associated Press reported.

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Those who don’t want to shop in person will be able to participate in curbside pickup or deals through online shopping. 

“Black Friday is still critical,” Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData Retail, told the AP. “No retailer wants it to be tarnished. It’s still vital to get their consumers spending and get consumers into the holiday mood.”

The National Retail Federation (NRF) set its expectations for sales in November and December to increase between 3.6 percent and 5.2 percent over 2019, after last year saw a 4 percent boost compared to 2018. 

“After all they’ve been through, we think there’s going to be a psychological factor that they owe it to themselves and their families to have a better-than-normal holiday,” NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz told the AP.

The Macy’s Herald Square and Manhattan Mall saw limited shoppers in the early hours of Black Friday, according to the AP, similar to the Garden State Plaza mall in Paramus, N.J., which saw a line at GameStop. 

Black Friday online sales are expected to reach $10 billion in a 39 percent increase from last year, and Cyber Monday is anticipated to get to $12.7 billion in sales — a 35 percent increase, according to Adobe Analytics, which examines 80 of the top 100 U.S. online retailers. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has designated holiday shopping in crowded stores as a “higher risk” activity to contract COVID-19. The agency instead recommends shopping online, visiting outdoor markets and using curbside pickup.

The coronavirus pandemic, which has infected more than 12.8 million and killed 263,462 in the U.S., has sped up the decline of certain department stores that were required to close during lockdowns. Other companies that continued operating during shutdowns — like Amazon, Walmart and Target — kept up their sales.