In recent years, retailers have spread out the sales, building up deals for Thanksgiving, Cyber Monday, and Super Saturday. Now, in response to the pandemic, retailers are pushing more Black Friday doorbusters online and earlier in the season, and some stores have decided to shorten Black Friday itself by not opening their doors on Thanksgiving at all.
"Pretty much all the major players have already announced they'll be closed on Thanksgiving this year," says Kristin McGrath, editor and shopping expert at BlackFriday.com. "Walmart, Target, Kohl's, Macy's, Best Buy, and others have been falling into line over the past couple months."
The shift comes as stores look to dilute holiday shopping crowds while still racking up sales. Store traffic during the holiday season is expected to be down 25% compared to last year, according to consulting firm ShopperTrak.
The schedule change doesn't mean you won't be able to get Black Friday deals, though: "Retailers are compensating for the loss of in-store Thanksgiving shopping by making Black Friday into an entire season," McGrath says.
"You will definitely be able to get the usual doorbusters online instead of in stores this year," says McGrath.
Walmart is spreading the spending holiday over three separate events, where you can shop online or in stores. Online deals will be released a bit earlier than in-store ones, though. For example, the first event starts November 4 at 7 p.m. ET, then more new deals will be announced on November 7 online at 12 a.m. ET, and 5 a.m. local time in stores.
Sam's Club is hosting many savings events throughout November, including their annual Thanks-Savings event. This year, it will be a 10-day sale from November 20 to 29. Usually, it is four days long.
Target has also said it plans to offer Black Friday pricing through the entire month of November, according to McGrath.
Best Buy started offering some Black Friday deals during Prime Day and stated that it will guarantee Black Friday-level discounts. So if you buy something today and its price drops between now and Black Friday, the retailer will refund the difference.
"They are offering a small selection of its Black Friday discounts on those days, including one of its TV doorbusters, a Samsung 70-inch Class 4K Smart TV for $529.99," Matt Wehner, shopping expert at BestBlackFriday.com told Grow. Laptops will also be starting at $120 and JBL wireless headphones will be $70 (original price: $140), according to reporting by The Verge.
Like many shopping changes intended to protect consumers from Covid-19 — use of QR codes, for example — the transformation of Black Friday from a one-day event to a month of discounts was already happening. Many stores already made Black Friday discounts available all weekend and until Cyber Monday.
Making Black Friday doorbuster deals available online is also not new, McGrath says. In fact, few retailers exclusively offered deals in stores during previous years.
"They've been [offering the same deals online] in some regard for years now, but this year it's becoming more blatant," she says. "The only reason to go to a physical store was if an online deal sold out, or if you really enjoyed going to stores on Thanksgiving."
Now, McGrath says, stores are just giving consumers a chance to shop for longer without having to risk contracting Covid-19.
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