This year has been impossible to predict, but one thing is for sure: Black Friday won’t look the same in 2020.
Black Friday, the iconic kickoff to the gift-giving season, is defined by one major theme: huge crowds, crammed stores, and shoulder-to-shoulder shoppers. In other words, a way of living that we haven’t experienced since February and won’t again until at least 2021.
Which begs the question- how will such a major shopping ritual be observed this year? What should shoppers expect?
Merchants Grapple with COVID-19 Implications
Major retailers are slowly releasing their tentative plans for Black Friday 2020. They face the enormous responsibility this year of creating a safe shipping environment for customers and employees alike while addressing ongoing inventory issues and attempting to resuscitate profit margins.
“Everyone is trying to figure out how this is going to work this year,” explained Nate Shenck, managing director of North American retail at Boston Consulting Group (BCG).
“In reality, we are still figuring out how to operate in this new environment. Retailers are trying to get their sea legs around how you keep people safe, operate efficiently, and generate excitement and demand in a volatile and somewhat unpredictable environment for the next 12-18 months.”
Retailers Attempt to Boost Excitement Without Crowds
Excitement has always been the linchpin of Black Friday. For decades, throngs of shoppers have lined up overnight to snag the biggest doorbuster sales of the holiday season. That simply can’t happen in a COVID-19 world.
The first major indication of changes to come? Macy’s, Home Depot, Walmart, and other major retailers reversing course from past years and pledging to stay closed on Thanksgiving. This is a significant change, especially for Walmart, which has long prided itself on being synonymous with Thanksgiving evening shopping.
This year, retailers must redesign Black Friday to generate excitement differently. According to Macy’s CEO Jeff Gennette, this will require retailers to extend the holiday shopping period and place a heavier emphasis on online shipping, curbside pickup, and other socially distanced shopped alternatives.
Here’s how retailers plan to give shoppers what they want and crave, without accelerating COVID-19 risks and fears:
- Home Depot will host two full months of holiday deals online and in stores beginning in November.
- Macy’s plans to release holiday sale information earlier than usual to extend shopping time. Stores will open on Black Friday with strict social distancing protocols.
- Walmart will release deals earlier than usual to compensate for less Thanksgiving and Black Friday activity
The bottom line? Retailers will still offer major sales and savings, but without the unique Black Friday in-person experience, shoppers might feel like athletes playing a game to an empty, fan-less stadium.