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Online sales expected to dominate Black Friday over in-person shopping

Smaller turnouts at big box and local stores in Madison on Black Friday morning
Published: Nov. 27, 2020 at 1:14 PM CST|Updated: Nov. 27, 2020 at 6:04 PM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - The massive crowds and long lines you typically see on Black Friday were nearly nonexistent at stores in Madison. Many big box stores are encouraging people to shop online rather than in-person this holiday season.

The Walmart on Watts Road in Madison opened at 5 A.M. to less than a dozen people standing in line before the doors opened.

”The line is way shorter than I anticipated. I’ve been to multiple websites going for the PS5. All out of stock. So I figured I’d give in-person a try.” says Black Friday shopper, Max Meyers.

For other shoppers, going Black Friday shopping in the early morning hours is a tradition. “For me it’s something that my mom always did with me. So my sister and I now do it,” says shopper Krystal Hellenbrand.

She was on the hunt for toys for her children, while her sister Kaitlyn Federman was hoping to score a discounted TV. “It’s just something that we’ve done so keep the tradition up,” says Hellenbrand.

For many major retailers the lack of in-person shoppers was anticipated and even encouraged. “Retail is trying to push people to shop online instead. Just because they don’t want tens of thousands of people going their stores, because they can’t have that kind of capacity,” says Jon Vincent, Consumer Analyst for EarlyBlackFriday.

Many big box stores are also pushing consumers to choose curbside pick-up over delivery. “Their goal is just so they don’t have to overwhelm the distribution warehouses, alleviate some of the load and it allows you to get some of your items earlier because you can just drive to the store,” says Vincent.

Vincent says big retailers are also anticipating people to spend less money on Black Friday and during this holiday season.

“In fact if you look at the trends, this looks very similar to 2008 during the financial crisis. There was just a lot of uncertainty on the consumer side and on the retailer side. Same thing this year, there’s a lot of uncertainty and people just don’t know what the future brings with the pandemic,” says Vincent.

Vincent says that will lead many retailers to extend those sales longer than usual. “They’re just going to continue to have sale after sale throughout the holiday season. Just to try to capture those holiday dollars and beat out the competition,” says Vincent.

That includes stores inside Hilldale Shopping Center. “Most of our stores do their sales all weekend and a majority of the sales today are through the weekend and available online,” says Julia Hix, the Hilldale Shopping Center’s Marketing Manager.

That could mean the rush of getting those early morning Black Friday deals may become a thing of the past.

“Stores aren’t doing sales that are like early bird specials or anything like that. So there is no need to come right away in the morning. And most of them are fully stocked so you don’t have to get here right away to get a good deal,” says Hix.

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