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How Retailers Are Taking On Black Friday During COVID-19

How Retailers Are Taking On Black Friday During COVID-19

Romana Hai
How Retailers Are Taking On Black Friday During COVID-19

Black Friday marks the official start of the holiday shopping season. For decades, the holiday event has been marked by visuals of jam-packed stores, lines out the door of almost any retailer you could think of and door-buster deals, which often create those endless lines we speak of.

However, traditional tactics that have helped drive sales prior to the COVID-19 pandemic are not as applicable this year. But that doesn’t necessarily mean retailers are looking to compromise on sales due to a health crisis.

In fact, retailers are still looking for ways to boost their sales and bump revenue during the Black Friday holiday. This time, with more emphasis on contactless and digital experiences, bringing less emphasis in-store.

This year, retailers are looking to keep customers at home and shopping and use their stores for just picking up gifts from the curbside. Here’s how some of the biggest retailers are taking on the shopping event:

Ramping up online Black Friday sales, well before Black Friday

According to a JLL’s annual holiday report, roughly 43 percent of surveyed consumers plan to start holiday shopping before the Thanksgiving holiday, up from just 33.7 percent last year.

For example, perhaps unsurprisingly, eCommerce giant Amazon has started dropping discounts since mid-October. However, it is worth noting that Amazon’s accelerated push to roll out early deals was related to its late start to its summer Prime Day event, which was pushed back a few times over due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Walmart also followed suit with its own online discount event as its data revealed that 87 percent of its customers planned to seek out deals earlier this year than in the years before.

Bringing some of the Black Friday hype and safety back in-stores

The ongoing pandemic has done little to dampen shoppers’ enthusiasm for hitting the stores on Black Friday. Nearly 49.4 percent of consumers still plan to shop in-store during this year’s holiday season, which is just about 2.5 percentage points less than last year. That is not to say that consumers have no concerns about contracting the virus and safety.

According to the International Council of Shopping Center October survey, just roughly 66 percent indicate that they are more likely to enter stores with strict health precautions in place.

Many retailers are thus looking to stagger their offerings this year, starting with online deals and then slowly rolling out discounts in-store in hopes of giving everyone an opportunity to take advantage of the sales. This also allows retailers to emphasize social distancing and ensure safety.

For example, Kohl’s launched its extended holiday shopping deals earlier this month, with multiple in-store and online shopping events planned through the end of the month. The retailer has also looked to stress its in-store safety precautions and fulfillment options through contactless drive up, buy online, pickup in-store (BOPIS) and Amazon Returns options at its store location. That is in addition to in-store safety protocols such as mask requirements, social distancing measures as well as occupancy limits.

Closing its doors on Thanksgiving

This year, big-box retailers such as Walmart, Sam’s Club, and Target are closing their doors on Thanksgiving day.

“We know this has been a trying year, and our associates have stepped up. We hope they will enjoy a special Thanksgiving Day at home with their loved ones,” said John Furner, president and CEO of Walmart U.S.

The decision to close its doors on Thanksgiving, a first for the retailer as it has always been open on the holiday ever since the late 1980s, came as Walmart was deemed essential at the rise of the pandemic, putting the company’s employees on the front lines and enduring a significant amount of stress.

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Many other retailers are making the same decision to encourage consumers to shop online on Thanksgiving day and take advantage of deals in-store and online before and after the holiday.

BOPIS, curbside, you name it

Buy online, pickup in-store (BOPIS) and curbside pickup exploded during the height of the pandemic, making the offering an ultimate staple for any successful retailer.

The offering not only addresses safety concerns but also enables customers looking to obtain their items almost immediately, helping retailers cut or eliminate shipping costs altogether.

According to NPD, these services are critical to customers looking to avoid additional costs, such as shipping.

“Consumers plan to do more of their holiday shopping online this year, and this includes shipping gifts to family and friends with whom they won’t be able to celebrate in person this year,” said Marshal Cohen, NPD’s chief industry advisor, retail. “The addition of shipping fees to all of these deliveries is a bigger financial burden on consumers than getting the best deal on the item itself.”

While how consumers will shop this holiday season remains to be seen, retailers that successfully rollout and promote the availability of their omnichannel shopping features are sure to attract new customers that are looking to shop in a safe and secure environment.

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