Crowds smaller as pandemic impacts Black Friday shopping

Chicago News

CHICAGO As the retail industry looks for a hint of normalcy for Black Friday shopping, a rapid surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations has decimated crowd sizes for the shopping holiday.

Unlike most years, major retailers such as Target and Walmart were closed for the whole day Thursday, and spaced out deals over the course of several weeks to discourage the usual crowding seen in stores the day after Thanksgiving.

Despite the pandemic and smaller crowds, overall Black Friday spending is predicted to rise between 3.5 and 5 percent over 2019’s numbers, according to the National Retail Federation.

The NRF said more people have more money to spend on stores due to fewer expenses on traveling and entertainment.

While shopping was down overall, some stores did have packed parking lots and large crowds.

The parking lot at Abt Electronics, in Glenview, was packed as shoppers looked for good deals.

“We drove around the parking lot twice because there were no spaces,” Judy Kelly said. “Then I said ‘there’s one, go get it.'”

Owner Jon Abt said despite the pandemic, they are having a record year. On Thanksgiving, online sales were up 130% from last Thanksgiving. Popular items are big screen TVs, audio systems and smart home devices.

“We’ve seen a nice increase in business, not just for the holidays” said owner Jon Abt. “But this entire year has been pretty good for us.”

The store is set up for 25% capacity inside and is taking customers’ temperatures at the entrance.

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