Black Friday sees small crowds, more online shopping

Michael Hutchins
Herald Democrat
Crowds line up outside Sherman's Target location on Friday in anticipation of Black Friday deals and sales.

The coming of Thanksgiving and Black Friday signaled the unofficial start of the Christmas season — or at least the shopping aspect of it all. For years, crowds gathered in the early morning hours the day after Thanksgiving in hopes of getting a deal on electronics, clothing and other items.

However, uncertainty lingered this year as to what the shopping holiday would look like in the era of COVID-19, social distancing  and a global pandemic. 

Small crowds of shoppers and bargain hunters gathered at area retailers, stores and shopping centers in search of a deal this Black Friday. Some visited Texoma retailers in search of savings on holiday purchases, while others went out simply of tradition while seeking out some level of normality in an unpredictable time.

There are many stories about the shopping holiday after Thanksgiving — and unofficial start to the Christmas shopping season — was named Black Friday. Some attribute it to the the time of year when retailers "are in the black" and make a profit for the year, while others attribute it to the mass of shoppers when viewed from above. Either way, the day after Thanksgiving has traditionally been a major boon for many retailers and deal seekers alike.

Catherine and Christian Repass spent most of the night waiting for Best Buy to open its doors at 5 a.m.  By the time the doors opened, a crowd of about 30 people had lined up, with space between each group.

"I mean, we came earlier this year to just gauge how big the crowd was going to be," Christian Repass said, adding that they arrived around midnight and camped out. "Everything behind us is just from the last two hours."

Rather than doing Christmas shopping, Catherine Repass said she specially was searching for a television to replace one that had recently broken down.

"We did a little bit of research and found a 50 inch for about $150," she said.

Crowds line up outside Sherman's Target location on Friday in anticipation of Black Friday deals and sales.

Catherine Repass said she normally isn't the Black Friday type, and only takes advantage of the sales about once every three years. This would be the only stop for the day.

 "I think people try to come out for any deal they can get," she said.

"Especially in times like this," Christian Repass added.

Unlike the Repasses, Jessica Short had gift giving on the mind as she stood outside Best Buy. While she knew exactly what she wanted to buy, she was reluctant to say what, lest someone find out what they'd be getting for Christmas.

Short,  whose family is based out of Fort Hood, said she wanted to shop in Sherman to get a better chance at getting what she wanted while not having to fight the crowds.

"I was hoping coming up here, to a smaller town, that we'd have a better chance of getting one, especially for Black Friday," she said. "This was the store that I chose because there would be a smaller number of people here versus Walmart."

The ongoing pandemic left Short uncertain to if she would do Black Friday shopping or not this year. However, the smaller-than-anticipated crowds made her feel comfortable.

"Whenever you think of Black Friday shopping, social distancing is not a thing," she said. "I did not expect as few people to be out, but I think we've done a good job of keeping six feet apart or more."

While many shoppers started their rounds at 5 a.m. some retailers, including Target would not open for a couple hours yet. Target was one of many larger retailers that did not open on Thanksgiving Day in 2020 and instead opted to open on Black Friday itself.

A larger crowd of shoppers gathered outside Target for its Black Friday deals just before dawn Friday. While there were no markets on the ground, many in the crowd naturally spaced out from each other.

Darlene Baker said she did not have anything specific she was shopping for. Instead, the shopping holiday gave both incentive and excuse to get out of the house for a little while.

Although Target did not open until 7 a.m., Baker said she got her start early this year.

"We went to Kohl's and Bath and Body (Works) at around 5 a.m.," she said.

Baker said it was difficult to find the holiday spirit with many retailers opting for later openings this year.

"It is a little depressing that we didn't get to start earlier," she said. "This is Black Friday and you only get to do this once a year."

Despite the uncertainty, many retailers are expecting to see increased profits this season. The National Retail Federation  projected holiday spending will increasxe between 3.6 and 5.2 percent this year, however this number includes grocery sales.

Some predict that number could be reached, but the majority of sales this year will be done online instead of in person.

Traffic was steady at Sherman's Academy Sports + Outdoors location by midmorning. While some shoppers did crowd the aisles Friday morning, many others opted for curbside pick up this year.

"Black Friday has been heavy online orders," Academy Store Director Chris Mitchell said. "The crowds have been coming out, but it is a little later than they did last year. People are still coming out and everyone is in a great mood."

As with previous years, the retailer forewent opening on Thursday and instead opened at 5 a.m. Friday. However, the shopping holiday arguably started earlier this year as many deals were posted early in a bid to spread out crowds over multiple days.

"We did start our Black Friday sales on Sunday and those have continued throughout the week," Mitchell said. "Starting Thursday night at midnight, they could start up with online orders."

Trends for this year's purchases fall back on several traditional gifts including bicycles. However, game tables have also proven to be a hit in 2020, Mitchell said.

"We are selling lots of bikes, fire pits and especially apparel," he said. "So, shopping patterns  have stayed about where they were last year."