holiday shopping

Black Friday, Holiday Shopping Season Will Look Different This Year Due to Pandemic

To prevent people from gathering into large groups, big retailers are spreading deals out throughout the entire shopping season

NBCUniversal, Inc.

Gone are the days of waiting in big crowds for the best deals on Black Friday, at least for the 2020 shopping season.

The pandemic has dashed all plans for doorbuster deals at area stores.

It’s a yearly tradition for so many people after Thanksgiving dinner -- waiting outside, oftentimes in the cold, for deals they won't find any other time of the year.

But due to COVID-19, the retail industry has been forced to rethink the traditional timeline for holiday shopping.

To prevent people from gathering into large groups and further spreading the novel coronavirus, big retailers are spreading those deals out throughout the entire shopping season so that consumers don't have to wait until Black Friday to get the best deals on holiday gifts.

For example, Best Buy said its Black Friday deals are available right now. In fact, many stores started their sales in mid-October to light up with Amazon's Prime Day.

There's also a big push to accommodate customers who want to order online, but pick the item up in the store or through curbside pickup, which Best Buy says accounts for as much 40 percent of what it sells.

Target has also released a series of week-long sales that will run through November. The retailer, along with many others, is updating and expanding its price match guarantee, which means you don't have to sacrifice savings if you shop early.

Last year, people waited as long as eight hours outside Nebraska Furniture Mart in The Colony for doorbuster deals that were only available on Black Friday. Hundreds of people lined up outside the store to snag items that were available to only the first certain number of customers per deal.

This year, the company has expanded its shopping event to "50 Days of Doorbusters" starting Nov. 1 and running until Dec. 20. The goal is to reduce Black Friday shopping crowds and allow people to shop safely when they can, both in the store and online.

“Holiday shopping, beginning with Black Friday, is an annual tradition that so many shoppers look forward to year after year,” said Tony Boldt, NFM’s President and COO, in a statement. “The health and safety of our customers and staff is always our number one priority. And while the coronavirus has caused us to make alterations from previous years, it’s also allowed us to get creative and provide our customers with a safe and fun shopping experience. We look forward to surprising and delighting our customers with memorable experiences throughout the holiday season.”

In the last several years, there has been discussion about the future of the Black Friday shopping tradition, as online sales have competed with the brick and mortar experience.

But is the pandemic the nail in the coffin for the shopping holiday?

"I think it's fine if it is because the wonderful thing is this puts the customer in control they can start to decide when they want to shop how they want to shop and what a great deal looks like to,” said Best Buy CEO Corie Barry, in an exclusive interview with NBC News.

This year, many stores have shifted their focus to making sure those customers score the best deal in the safest way possible.

Walmart is planning to split up its Black Friday sales into three different events this year in order to contain crowds during the coronavirus pandemic and to avoid overwhelming the supply chain.

"Stores have found now the very best way to serve customers safely and fortunately Walmart we have big stores and big stores to give you the advantage of having the room so customers can spread out and we know that many customers are going to want to shop in-store and they want to see product and we've got a great plan where they can do that safely," said John Furner, CEO of Walmart U.S. in another exclusive interview with NBC News.

“Black Friday Deals for Days” will kick off online on Nov. 4 with deals on toys, electronics and home products and continue in store on Nov. 7. The second event will begin online on Nov. 11 with mark-downs on TVs, computers, tablets, movies, music and more, continuing in store on Nov. 14. Lastly, the retail giant will wrap up the event online on Nov. 25 and in store on “true” Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving.

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