Black Friday and the shopping weekend could be a beacon of hope for struggling stores.
On Friday, retailers across North Texas and the country kicked off the holiday shopping season with deals both in-store and online after a devastating economic year. The annual shopping holiday could be the first taste of what the shopping season looks like in 2020.
Despite the pandemic turning shoppers away from the crowds in recent months, people started lining up as early as 2 a.m. Friday morning outside stores like Best Buy and Game Stop.
So far, retailers are trying to stay optimistic and innovative as the coronavirus crisis threatens to keep shoppers and spending at bay.
"This year has been hard,” said Allison Scott, owner of Apricot Lane inside Galleria Dallas.
It’s the 10th year her shop has welcomed Black Friday shoppers but it’s the very first without a line of eager customers waiting outside their doors.
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“We expected that. We knew that's what would happen,” Scott said. “We're just really praying for a good holiday season."
The family-owned shop is one the small businesses and other retailers inside Galleria Dallas that are banking on the holiday shopping season to save them from the economic crisis brought on by the pandemic.
"We've been trying to really come up with different ways to really boost our online sales by using social media," said Scott. “We’re really just trying to focus on spreading out our deals throughout the holidays instead of just having one time to where everyone’s here at the same time. So we’re hoping that by spreading them out over the next few weeks, it will balance it out and end up being the same in the end.
Experts and recent data are leaning toward a more positive outlook for 2020, despite the challenges.
The National Retail Federation predicts holiday sales during November and December will increase between 3.6% and 5.2% 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% increase to $729.1 billion last year and an average holiday sales increase of 3.5% over the past five years.
Holly Quartaro, fashion and lifestyle director for Galleria Dallas, is watching the retailers she works with pivot in new ways never seen before.
“Customers don’t have to think about it as one day but rather as an entire season,” she said. “We’re seeing a trend of a longer sales season so a lot of these deals that used to only happen on Black Friday are happening throughout the weekend. You can still save, but in a safer environment.”
Businesses are also taking extra measures to meet everyone's needs.
For example, Best Buy is mirroring every single sale item to their online store for those who don’t want to shop inside the physical store.
Countless retailers are still pushing for curbside and contactless pick up as well.
“Contactless curbside pickup is something new that we rolled out in this pandemic to make it safer for customers to get their products,” Best Buy representative Matthew Smith said. “If you prefer to not wait in the store, you can be added to a digital queue that allows you to wait in your car. That way you don’t have to be in the store unnecessarily. When it is time for you to get in the store, you’ll get a notification and an expert will greet you and help you.”
No matter where you shop, masks, social distancing and capacity limits will be the norm. Each store is in charge of controlling the number of its customers.
“We have lots of square footage, lots of room to move around. Facemasks are required and we expect our customers to follow all of the rules so we can stay safe," said Quartaro. “There is a capacity limit but we will not reach it. There is so much square footage here we’re not even close to capacity."
Galleria Dallas said it has also amped up their housekeeping efforts.
"We are wiping down high touch surfaces constantly throughout the day. You’ll see housekeeping staff everywhere," Quartaro said. "We also have masks on property if you forget one, we have mask distribution stations and hand sanitizing stations. And reminders for everyone to stay six feet apart.”
Small businesses are also hoping for support on for Small Business Saturday this weekend as retailers continue to push through toward the new year.
“We are doing some swag bags in the morning and other things to let people know we appreciate them,” said Scott. “There’s no way that ultimately we can be where we were last year with the decrease in foot traffic but we’re doing our best."
Online sales are expected to break records this year.
Black Friday is projected to generate $10 billion in online sales, a 39% bump from the year-ago period, according to NBC News.
Cyber Monday, the Monday after Thanksgiving, will remain the biggest online shopping day of the year with $12.7 billion in sales, a 35% jump.