Pandemic: Online Shopping Thins U.S. Black Friday Crowds

Masked shoppers turned up in smaller numbers at major U.S. retailers including Macy’s Inc , Walmart Inc and Best Buy Co Inc on Black Friday as early online deals and worry about the spike in COVID-19 cases dulled enthusiasm for trips to the mall.

Retailers overhauled the traditionally busy shopping day that comes the day after Thanksgiving. Walmart opened stores at 5 a.m. on Friday, directing shoppers to turn right upon entering and proceed along main aisles to shop deals before paying at registers surrounded by plastic barriers.

Best Buy opened at 5 a.m., employing workers in can’t miss orange vests to serve as traffic cops. Others offered temperature checks and “grab-and-go” merchandise, including toys, bikes and kitchen appliances to discourage lingering in store aisles.

Bill Park, a partner at Deloitte & Touche LP, estimated traffic at the King of Prussia mall outside of Philadelphia was down about 20-30% compared to last year.

During this pandemic-ridden year, retailers from Target Corp to Kohl’s Corp and Walmart  rolled out online winter holiday promotions in October to capture any holiday-related spending as early as possible.