Black Friday was less of a mega shopping day and more of a “big sale” well before COVID-19 arrived.

The pandemic has further diminished the luster of the post-Thanksgiving Day retail moniker and may prove to be a knockout punch for many ailing brick-and-mortar shopping concepts.

We’ve already seen a mad scramble for shoppers’ cash in an economy slammed by pandemic fallout. Those pitches included a slew of early “Black Friday” gift sales, both online and at physical stores.

Folks are certainly shopping. Depending on who’s forecasting or counting the sales, U.S. holiday shopping will grow somewhere between 1% and 4% vs. 2% in 2019. Either way, it’ll add up to roughly three-quarters of a trillion dollars — a national shopping spree roughly equal to Switzerland’s entire business output for a year.

Here’s a best guess at what Black Friday and holiday shopping might look like this year, using forecasts and surveys by CBRE Retail Research, Consumer Brands Association, Deloitte, Ipsos, Lending Tree, National Retail Federation, NPD, Numerator and ShopperTrak …

Black when?

If there’s a 2020 shopping bonanza, it might be Cyber Monday — the day after the Thanksgiving weekend ends.

The online world’s answer to other holiday shopping traditions has been rapidly gaining popularity as consumers get more comfortable with online retailing. Fear of crowds in 2020 will only boost this day’s allure.

The pandemic is a key reason why one poll found 38% of consumers more likely to shop on Cyber Monday this year vs. 25% who’ll more likely do Black Friday. The rest will do both!

It already happened

Amazon’s Prime Day, once the online giant’s attempt at a summer holiday sales fest, was delayed this year by the pandemic to October 13-14.

It quickly became the start of 2020’s holiday shopping season. One study showed 36% of American households bought something at Amazon those two days — a binge totaling $7.4 billion, up 64% vs. 2019.

Amazon wasn’t alone. Sales advertised as “Early Black Friday” had gotten business from 41% of U.S. consumers as of early November, another poll showed.

Quiet malls

Black Friday still gets folks in a shopping mood, just not so much at the shopping center.

Yes, 39% of all consumers are planning to buy gifts on Black Friday, according to one poll. The big “but” — just 34% will do that shopping in a store. The rest, you guessed it, will be clicking away at home.

Consumers are shopping extra early this year not so much for bargains as for safety. One poll showed 46% of early shoppers think the virus may halt or slow in-person shopping while 41% will go before the big sales to avoid crowds and/or long lines.

A year ago, 45% of shoppers said they were doing most of their gift buying in stores, but this year it’s only 22%. Oh, and the folks who’ll be 100% online gift-buyers this year have doubled — to 16% in 2020 from 7% last year.

Traffic in retail stores is expected to be down as much as 25% this holiday season.

Popping up

When you’re at the mall, the experience will be different.

Retailers will literally be “popping up” even more for the holiday season. Think of that temporary sausage-and-cheese or candy kiosks. This year you’ll see more — and different — temporary merchants.

For example, athletic wear’s Lululemon plans to have 70 pop-ups throughout the nation to capture sales in this hot apparel niche. One will be at the luxury South Coast Plaza mall which also will have a pop-up from high-end fashion maker Treasure Island Max Mara.

Plus, desires for contact-less transactions will mean “pop up” pick-up stations will be common. One survey suggests 53% of shoppers will choose merchants offering pick-up or curbside deliveries from online purchases with these selling methods taking in 60% more dollars this year.

Gift cards galore

The ultimate gifting cop-out is getting even more popular: Gift cards are easy to acquire and ship, perfect for the “stay at home” economy.

One survey found 52% of consumers saying they’ll buy more gift cards this holiday season — getting an average of 10 in 2020, double 2019’s purchases. That adds up to $313 — 40% of their holiday spending.

And note: gift cards were a top seller during Amazon’s Prime Day event.

Home sweet home

Folks stuck at home have made the backyard the family refuge.

This year dad may actually want some gear for the outdoor grill, if not an entirely new one. For example, sales of food smokers in October were up 110% from a year ago.

It’s part of increased interest in giving products for the home as indoor life has taken on a larger meaning in the pandemic era.

One forecast shows 25% of consumers intending to buying home gifts and spending, on average, $225 on those products.

Individual sports, not team

The coronavirus has rearranged how we buy athletic gear and that should show up in what’s gifted this year.

Take what we’ll put on our feet. Running and hiking shoes are in vogue as folks try new forms of exercise. More casual footwear — from fashion to surf and skate — is out with kids spending more time at home.

Anything tied to team activity is down dramatically, too, especially with school sports on hold in many parts of the nation. But that translates to more gifting for games that can be played individually at a distance. Gear for racquet sports or golf should be hot holiday sellers.

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By Kelley Wheeler

Kelley Wheeler is a Metro reporter covering political issues and general assignments. A second-generation journalist, worked with all major news outlet, she holds a vast expeirience. Kelley is a graduate of USC with degrees in journalism and English literature. She is a recipient of Yale’s Poynter Fellowship in Journalism.

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