I visited Target and Best Buy on Black Friday — and I couldn’t believe how empty they were

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I couldn’t believe how empty my local Target was. Business Insider/Jessica Tyler
  • Black Friday isn’t as crazy of a shopping day as it once was.
  • Black Friday’s decline is in large part due to the rise of online shopping and heavy discounting year-round.
  • When we visited Best Buy and Target, traditionally two of the biggest Black Friday destinations, the stores were close to empty.

Black Friday isn’t the massive shopping event it once was.

One of the biggest factors in Black Friday’s declining significance is the rise of online shopping. With so many deals available online, customers no longer have to wait out in long lines for stores to open.

“54 per cent of US shoppers say they are more likely to shop online during Black Friday with the biggest reasons being convenience and simplicity,” Ray Wimer, an assistant professor of retail practice at Syracuse University, said in an email earlier this week.

The rise of online shopping has allowed Black Friday to begin earlier. Online shopping on Thanksgiving surged this year, according to Adobe.

This year, ShopperTrak data reported by CNBC showed store visits on Black Friday declined 1.7%, while online shopping sales reached $US6.2 billion on Friday, according to Adobe Analytics.


Read more:
Black Friday deals sold out before Friday even began

Constant discounting also may be to blame. This year, Prime Day forced competing retailers like Target, Macy’s, and JCPenney to offer massive Black Friday-style sales in July, taking away from the excitement of holiday deals.

When I visited a Best Buy and a Target – traditionally two of the biggest Black Friday destinations – in Westchester, New York, I was surprised to find that the stores weren’t busy at all. Besides all of the big signs, it seemed like any other weekend, though they had been open for several hours the day before, Thanksgiving. Hardly anyone was waiting in line before stores opened, and the lines at the register didn’t seem out of the ordinary.

Here’s what it was like to shop at Best Buy and Target on Black Friday morning:


Best Buy was the first store I went to. I arrived about 20 minutes before it opened at 8 a.m.

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I was surprised to find the parking lot was mostly empty.

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There were a handful of people waiting in line to get in, but not many.

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There was a sign at the entrance advertising some of the best deals that were still available.

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It was pretty quiet throughout the store.

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A lot of aisles were actually empty.

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It really felt like any other Friday in the store.

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I expected the TV department to be more crowded, but only one or two people were there.

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The only parts of the store that had crowds were the home theatre section …

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… and the Apple store. But even those crowds weren’t much different than any other day.

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I noticed arrows on the floor that started near the Apple store. I tried following them …

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… but they didn’t seem to actually lead anywhere.

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There wasn’t a single person shopping for appliances …

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… headphones, speakers …

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… or smart home devices.

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The line at the register was a bit long, but it wasn’t anything unusual. There were less than 10 people waiting to check out, and five or six registers were open.

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I went to Target next. I got there a little before 9 a.m.

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I couldn’t believe how empty it was.

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There wasn’t a person in sight.

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There was a balloon that read “line starts here” halfway across the store from the registers.

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But there was no one in line.

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The grocery department was almost completely empty, too.

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And nobody was shopping for beauty products …

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… clothes …

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… or home products.

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There were a handful of shoppers waiting to buy new iPhones …

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… and the toy department was a bit busier than the rest of the store.

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But there were no lines at the front. In fact, it was less crowded than it normally is.

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Even though Best Buy and Target are traditionally very popular Black Friday destinations, the stores we visited were surprisingly empty on Friday morning.

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