Oracle After Hours: Is the hustle and bustle of Black Friday crowds over this year? How Black Friday will take on a new form with Covid-19

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Illustration by Hyun Park

Aria Jain, columnist

I vividly remember hearing a Black Friday horror story about a man pepper spraying a woman in an attempt to snatch the last new iPhone on the shelf at Best Buy. This year, all the hustle and bustle that is associated with Black Friday might look different with a pandemic in the mix.  

I used to look forward to pushing myself into the crowds at the malls, which are filled up to their capacity every year. However, Covid-19 has made shopping with thousands of others in the same vicinity sound significantly less appealing. Considering I am now hesitant to rush into a bustling store in hopes of finding the best deal, I am relieved to hear that most retailers are rethinking and revamping their Black Friday sales. 

From the perspective of a potential shopper on Black Friday, most of my concerns boil down to dealing with the uncontrollable crowds Black Friday usually brings. After reading about adjustments major retailers are making, many of my major concerns have been eased. 

Based on what I have read and heard, it sounds like many companies are lengthening the duration of their sales to manage the influx of shoppers. For the weekend of Black Friday itself, curbside pickup is highly encouraged and there will be extra safety and sanitary precautions implemented for in-person shoppers. Walmart, a big player in Black Friday sales, will offer sanitized carts to each shopper and health ambassadors will monitor their mask policy. 

However, the business side of my brain cannot ignore the potential financial repercussions that come with extending Black Friday sales. Every year, Black Friday advertises incredible, yet fleeting, sales, enticing people to purchase many items at once while the sales last. With this year’s new arrangement, I worry that many retailers will lose revenue by continuing their huge sales for a substantially longer period. The issue is that stores offer huge discounts during Black Friday, banking on consumers purchasing in volume or more expensive items. If the high discounts that come with Black Friday are kept the same for an extended period, there will not be any price margins and retailers will lose money. 

However, in lieu of emphasizing Black Friday sales, big-box retailers are relying on holiday sales. Much of the industry is not concerned with Black Friday but instead, choosing to focus on holiday sales which solves the problem of extended Black Friday discounts. 

Another saving grace for Black Friday sales is Cyber Monday. The past few years have seen an exponential increase in online shopping during Black Friday. There is a convenient appeal to online shopping during the infamous November weekend because consumers avoid that chaotic frenzy in stores. Cyber Monday has helped to popularize the uptick in online sales and gives consumers the rare opportunity to shop online and receive the same deals offered in stores. 

 I think the pandemic will sweeten the allure of online shopping and customers will flock to retailer’s websites to purchase the items during Black Friday sales. There is no worry of the virus from the safety of a computer screen in your home and it only takes a couple of clicks for your transaction to be on the way to your doorstep. 

With many retailers starting their holiday sales sooner, many shoppers will depend on delivery for the gift they buy online as well. Shipping is not always the most reliable when it comes to time. Holiday gifts often have a deadline of Christmas or New Year’s Eve so consumers should be diligently ordering their gifts ahead of time to prevent a delivery debacle. 

If I were in charge of a store which experiences major traffic during Black Friday, I would concentrate my energy on the online profile of the business. It could be as simple as touching up the website or adding more items that consumers can purchase, but a subtle shift from the in-store to the online part of a company’s business could be beneficial in the coming weeks. 

While I will miss charging into stores ready for battle during Black Friday this year, I am curious to see the strategies and ideas different companies establish in an attempt to achieve the same sales the weekend consistently brings.