Black Friday opens to smaller crowds, shoppers shift to online purchases

The crowds are smaller this year, but there’s still shoppers across the Bay Area keeping the Black Friday tradition alive and heading out in-person to get those deals.

At the Best Buy on Dale Mabry, a usual hotspot for Black Friday shoppers, there was a line of about 30 people waiting to be let inside once the doors opened at 5 a.m., and the steady stream of shoppers continued throughout the morning. 

However, in light of the pandemic, many people are opting to stay home and do their shopping online. While there was a line outside Best Buy Friday morning, it looked nothing like Black Friday’s in the past. That’s because many retailers pushed their Black Friday deals on their websites, with some of those deals going live even before Friday morning. 

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The early deals gave shoppers the opportunity to get a head start on their holiday shopping with the goal of keeping the crowds low inside the stores. 

Increased safety measures have been put in place like extra sanitizing throughout the stores, masks for both employees and shoppers and social distancing, but stores didn’t want to have the usual Black Friday crowds packed inside. That’s why they’ve been encouraging things like curbside pickup and online shopping for their shoppers. 

For those who did venture out Friday morning, they said it not only felt different but looked different too. Big ticket items like the new PS5 or the new Xbox are not being sold in Best Buy stores right now to prevent that mad rush for the limited items. 

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Despite it being a challenging time for many, a survey by the International Council of Shopping Centers said that for those shoppers shopping either in person or online, 44% of them will be spending more than they did last year. So even if the usual crowds are nowhere to be found, Black Friday is still happening, even if this year it’s mostly online. 

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, including at supermarkets.

Instead, the health agency recommends shopping online, visiting outdoor markets or using curbside pickup, where workers bring orders to you in the parking lot.

The Associated Press contributed to this report