Stores opt to close Thanksgiving, push for Black Friday online shopping amid pandemic

CHICAGO (WLS) -- In recent years Thanksgiving has turned into the start of the holiday shopping season, but not this year.

Magnificent Mile is calm as most stores decided to stay closed on Thanksgiving in part due to the pandemic, forcing retailers to take a different approach to holiday shopping.

Experts say shoppers are shifting their holiday hunt online. According to early data, online sales this month are already up 32% compared with last year and online sales on Black Friday are expected to increase by 40 percent.

The new trend means those huge lines and crowds camped outside stores post-Thanksgiving dinner is out and online shopping is in.

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Even big retailers, like Best Buy and Kohl's that are normally open the last Thursday of November, are closed.

"Most retailers are trying to avoid a massive spike of people in their stores," said Brad Loftus, Senior Partner at Boston Consulting Group. "They're trying to move more of their sales and spread the sales fees out of a greater portion of time."

the trend is something Jason Serrano decided to take advantage of. He is one of the few camped outside Best Buy in Chicago's Bucktown, waiting to score a deal on a Playstation 5 for his daughter.

"Online they are going for $2,000 and I'm not going to pay that much, so I would rather just wait here," he said.

Sixty percent of shoppers say they plan to do at least some of their holiday shopping from home this year, with 41% saying they won't be hitting the stores on Black Friday at all.

"It actually feels good because of social distancing," Serrano said. "Knowing no one was going to be here in the same spots so it kind of-to me, it's pretty cool to be out here and get something that she really wants."

Some retailers have already started their sales, desperate to jump-start and extend the holiday shopping season.

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"Retailers are really trying to get the orders earlier as there's a very small window between Black Friday and Christmas, and they want to make sure that they're their orders are delivered on time and meeting customer expectations," Loftus said.

As for the hot ticket items this year? Experts say gifts for the home.

"So home entertainment. If you think about cooking, if you think about anything for decorating those homes, those categories are all up to a great degree this year," Loftus said.

Given the recent second surge of COVID-19, the CDC recommends Black Friday deal seekers look online and use curbside pickup, if available.
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