Coronavirus fears, online deals thin Black Friday crowds; some malls and stores still see high traffic

U.S.

(NewsNation Now) — After months of falling sales and business bankruptcies, Black Friday offers the U.S. economy a sliver of hope. 

Traditionally the biggest shopping day of the year, it draws millions eager to get started on their holiday spending. And while it appeared threatened by the recent spike in coronavirus cases, the pandemic seemed all but forgotten in many parts of the country as shoppers lined up for bargains. 

After the economic slump they’ve suffered for most of 2020, retailers say they need this Black Friday more than ever— and the National Retail Federation predicts it just might deliver. With a COVID-19 vaccine on the horizon, the NRF is expecting a strong finish to the year, with holiday sales increasing over 2019 to over 3-quarters of a trillion dollars.

Sadly, medical experts predict we may pay a high price in new coronavirus cases and deaths.

In Willow Grove, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philadelphia, shoppers weren’t social distancing but fighting among themselves in a packed line outside a Game Stop, waiting for a chance to buy a Sony PlayStation 5. 

NewsNation affiliate KTVI put its helicopter over a St. Louis-area outlet mall and found big crowds, long lines and not much personal space.

Inside stores, retailers were monitoring occupancy levels and sanitizing every surface they could, while keeping customers moving. Shoppers were impressed by the efficiency. 

“Most people stayed six feet apart,” noted Jay Countryman of Dolgeville, New York. “They get you in and they get you out.”

Stores and shopping malls opened later on this Black Friday. Many were filled by mid-morning, although some people said they were very happy to stay home this year. 

“I’m afraid until I get that vaccine,” one would-be shopper told our affiliate in Memphis.

Experts expect on-line shopping to be up at least 20 to 30 percent this year, with curbside pickup becoming a very popular option.

At stores, the biggest lines are reserved for the gaming systems, TVs and computers, but shoppers were out in droves for other items— and other reasons. Some say concern about another increase in Covid-19 infections kept them home; others say that’s the reason they came out.

”We just wanted to make sure that if anything did happen and if we do need to shut down for everyone’s safety that we have everything done,” said Cameo White of Abilene, Texas, “so we can still have as close to a normal Christmas as possible.”

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