TAMPA, Fla. - Black Friday is just over a day away, but, many shoppers have already snagged the deals they've been watching.
The pandemic has changed a lot of things this year, including this annual retail tradition. Despite the changes, shoppers are still expected to spend some big bucks.
The sidewalk outside of Best Buy in Tampa, where lines of tents once stood on Thanksgiving Eve, are empty. Shoppers, once willing to trade Thanksgiving dinner for doorbusters, can finally stop and enjoy their pumpkin pie. Black Friday 2020 is no longer just a day, but rather, weeks.
"I got the Samsung Galaxy Plus earbuds," said shopper Abdiel Febres, Wednesday afternoon. "I think it's a lot better. Last year, the lines and everything, having to stay out...Now, we're able to just come in and get our stuff and go."
Keeping shoppers and store employees safe, mid-pandemic, is the priority. Target made its "Black Friday Now" deals available the entire month. Best Buy started in October. Walmart stretched its "Special Savings Days" events over three weeks, online and in-store.
"For example, we have shifted many of our most sought after items like TVs to online ordering," said Glenda Fleming Willis, the senior VP of Walmart U.S. operations.
All three retailers are closing their doors on Thanksgiving while touting safety protocols like mask requirements, limited capacity, social distancing and curbside pickup when they reopen Friday.
"I think it's really good to spread it out and people probably will be nicer to each other when it's not such a limited time to get the deals," said Leanne Honeycutt.
The shift in tradition is not slowing sales. The National Retail Federation forecast that holiday sales will increase between 3.6-5.2% over 2019.
Some shoppers already found what they're looking for before the turkey was even in the oven.
"Very good computer, $500 down," Sarla Saujani said. "You do your homework. You've got to be smart here."
Some will stick to the web.
"This year, I'll probably do most of it online," Vesta Anilus said.
Others prefer to just steer clear of it all.
"I've always stayed home, never gone out in the fray," Honeycutt said.
Perhaps, change can be a good thing.
"This is the way they should do it all Black Fridays," Saujani said. "They spread it out, they will be able to do more business, more relaxed, and more people will go. People should really learn a lesson."
Best Buy and Walmart open at 5 a.m. Friday.
Target opens at 7 a.m. Just leave some extra time in case you do have to wait in line. At Target, for example, you can check their website to see if there's a line at your store and get a text when it's your turn to enter.
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