Shopping crowds stay away – Arkansas Online
Crowds were thin at malls and stores across the country on Black Friday, but a surge in online shopping offered hope for struggling retailers.
In normal times, Black Friday is the busiest shopping day of the year, drawing millions of people eager to get started on their Christmas spending.
But a spike in coronavirus cases is threatening the economy’s fitful recovery from the sudden plunge in the spring. Crowds at stores were dramatically diminished as shoppers shifted to online spending.
At a small-format Target store in Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood, the scene was peaceful Friday morning. The store that opened at 7 a.m. capped capacity at 50 customers.
The store was stocked neatly with discounted Legos, sweaters for 30% off, Ghirardelli chocolates and Native skin-care items. Two women browsed the health-care aisle, while another grabbed a small basket for shopping — not the full-size carts necessary on typical Black Fridays.
[CORONAVIRUS: Click here for our complete coverage » arkansasonline.com/coronavirus]
At International Plaza and Bay Street mall in Tampa, Fla., a half-full lot meant easy parking for shoppers shortly after the stores opened at 9 a.m. Lindsay Grinstead, marketing and sponsorship director at the mall, said traffic has been strong since it reopened in May.
New safety measures have helped the mall gain shoppers’ trust: It provided the stores with a virtual-line app that allows customers to scan a QR code and save their spot in the line without having to physically stand in line. The mall also doubled the curbside pick-up capacity to more than 100 parking spaces. Masks are required inside the mall as well as in the stores, with some, like Hollister and Forever 21, providing masks at their entrances.
“We have been really pleasantly surprised that people have wanted to come back out and been shopping,” Grinstead said. “I can imagine that will continue through the holiday season.”
Stores also catered to those shopping digitally this week by moving their doorbuster deals online.
“Black Friday is still critical,” said Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData Retail. “No retailer wants it to be tarnished. It’s still vital to get their consumers spending and get consumers into the holiday mood.”
Several hundred shoppers lined up ahead of opening at Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn., which normally attracts several thousand on Black Friday.
[Video not showing up above? Click here to watch » https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4s3mlgct4nY]
The smaller crowds were planned, said Jill Renslow, Mall of America’s senior vice president of business development. The mall spread out the Black Friday deals over eight days, and many retail tenants pivoted more to online and curbside pickup.
“It feels good, and it’s the right thing to do to keep everybody safe,” Renslow said “Everyone is shopping a little differently but that’s OK.”
Only a trickle of shoppers showed up at Macy’s Herald Square in New York, which offered 50% off handbags and 60% off women’s and men’s coats. Workers sanitized door knobs and windows.
A Christmas tree towered over the largely empty streets around The Domain, the most popular outdoor mall in Austin, Texas. Store employees counted masked shoppers trickling in to stay within the state’s 75% capacity limit.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has labeled shopping in crowded stores during the holidays a “higher risk” activity and says people should limit any in-person shopping.
Thanksgiving Day shopping hit a record online as spending reached $5.1 billion, up 21.5% compared with a year ago, according to Adobe Analytics, which measures sales at 80 of the top 100 U.S. online retailers. Among the most popular items were Lego sets, Barbie toys, and kid scooters, HP laptops, and Apple Watches, according to Adobe. The popularity of Netflix’s “Queen’s Gambit” has boosted sales for chess-related items.
Walmart, which spread out its Black Friday deals over several weekends, said that its most popular deals included this year’s new gaming consoles, wireless headphones and home appliances.
Walmart said it will start Cyber Monday, the Christmas shopping season’s online counterpart to Black Friday, at 11 p.m. Sunday on its e-commerce site with deals on toys, electronics, apparel and other gift items.
Given the huge growth in online shopping this year because of coronavirus-related shutdowns and quarantines, the Bentonville-based retailer expects Monday’s event to be one of its busiest ever, said Scott McCall, chief merchandising officer at Walmart U.S.
Walmart.com customers can choose contactless options such as shipping or home delivery and curbside pickup, McCall said in a news release.
Walmart as well as many retail analysts expect to see a huge increase in online sales this Christmas season as virus fears and new shopping habits keep consumers at home.
However, Walmart, Target Corp. and Amazon.com spread their Christmas promotions over several months this year, starting in October.
Black Friday is projected to generate $10 billion in online sales, a 39% bump from the year ago period, according to Adobe. And Cyber Monday will remain the biggest online shopping day of the year with $12.7 billion in sales, a 35% jump.
Big stores like Walmart that were allowed to stay open during the spring lockdowns have enjoyed further gains from ramping up their online services, analysts say.
But stores deemed nonessential that were forced to close have struggled to recover. More than 40 chains, including J.C. Penney and J.Crew, have filed for bankruptcy.
There are fewer deals to be had this year. Nonessential retailers were forced to halt production at the onset of the pandemic, leading to lower inventory. As a result, Christmas promotions are tracking below last year’s levels for clothing, consumer electronics, power and hand tools and home goods, according to Numerator, a market research firm.
“Is there going to be a surge in apparel gifting, footwear gifting to help out any of the specialty retailers and do they have the digital presence to actually capture the attention of the consumers?” said Sonia Lapinsky, managing director in AlixPartners’ retail practice. “That remains to be seen, and I think it will be more on the grim side.”
The National Retail Federation, the nation’s largest retail trade group, predicted that shoppers will be looking for reasons to celebrate. The trade group expects sales for the November and December period to increase between 3.6% and 5.2% over 2019, compared with a 4% increase the year before. Holiday sales have averaged gains of 3.5% over the past five years.
“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,” said Jack Kleinhenz, the retail federation’s chief economist.
Information for this article was contributed by Anne D’Innocenzio, Joseph Pisani, Alexandra Olson, Tamara Lush and Acacia Coronado of The Associated Press; by Serenah McKay of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette; and by Jordyn Holman, Kim Bhasin and Carolina Gonzalez of Bloomberg News.
Published at Sat, 28 Nov 2020 10:52:00 +0000