Retailers adjust operations for Black Friday in pandemic

Retailers adjust operations for Black Friday in pandemic

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MERIDEN — Black Friday shopping will be different in 2020 as the U.S. battles steep spikes in the coronavirus.

The Meriden Mall will be closed Thanksgiving Day but will open at 7 a.m. Friday, with some stores opening at 5 a.m. Mall personnel will be deep cleaning and store capacities, mask wearing and distancing will be enforced. There will be no doorbuster sales, mall management said.

“At Meriden Mall, we are working hard to bring the Christmas spirit into the shopping experience. It is our goal to make the Christmas season as ‘normal’ as possible, while adhering to all CDC guidelines and regulations to ensure the health and safety of all our patrons during these uncertain times,” read a statement from Mall Manager Chris Powers.

Most retailers began offering Black Friday deals as early as October.

“This is going to be a historic holiday season and while some memorable traditions may change, the tradition of retailers supporting their customers and their communities is stronger than ever,” said Matthew Shay, president and CEO of the National Retail Federation. “That is why we encourage consumers to adopt two new traditions this year — shop safe and shop early — so we can all celebrate a happy and healthy holiday.

“In a year that has been full of uncertainty, we encourage consumers to avoid the last-minute stresses of the holiday season like long lines and shipping delays,” Shay added.

Over 40 percent of holiday shoppers say they started earlier than they normally do, according to an annual survey by the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics.

As of early November, 59 percent of holiday shoppers said they had started making purchases, a 21 percent increase from a decade ago, the study reported.

Best Buy, located in the mall, has advertised Black Friday deals since October, but is also offering specials for in store and online shopping on TVs, headphones, laptops, video games and more. The store is offering curbside pickup and same-day delivery.

“As we’ve said, Black Friday isn’t just one day this year — it’s months long,” according to a company statement. The store will be open from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Black Friday.

Dick’s Sporting Goods, also in the mall, is offering 10 days of Black Friday specials, according to a company press release. Dick’s has also hired more employees to fulfill Ship From Store and one-hour Curbside Contactless Pickup orders.

“We recognize the holiday shopping season is starting much earlier and will be a different experience this year for our customers,” Lauren Hobart, company president, said in a statement. “For the first time, we are extending our deals and making it easier than ever for our customers to get the best gifts for everyone on their list with flexible pickup and fast shipping to help them alleviate unwanted stress and large crowds. We’ve doubled down on technology solutions to ensure customers get what they need quickly, safely and hassle-free.”

The mall’s largest anchor store, Boscov’s, is also offering extended Black Friday deals, customer pickup and free shipping on orders over $59. A representative could not be reached for comment Friday.

FedEx and UPS are ramping up holiday hiring and expanding weekend operations, according to the Associated Press.

For the last few years, many retailers had been using their own physical stores, in addition to their distribution centers, to fulfill online orders. But now they are designating some of those stores to handle even higher volumes. Best Buy, for example, converted space in 250 of its 1,000 stores this fall to manage online orders. Walmart is setting up some pop up delivery hubs to meet demand.

“We are warmed up for what we’re calling the ship-a-thon,” Brie Carere, chief marketing and communications officer at FedEx, told the AP. “Like everything else in 2020, this is going to be an unprecedented peak season. We’ve actually seen three years of growth in e-commerce pulled forward. So we are expecting a ton of volume.”

mgodin@record-journal.com203-317-2255Twitter: @Cconnbiz

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