Walmart, Target, and Best Buy have revealed their Black Friday plans, and they're all radically different from prior years

Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images

The usual Black Friday experience of long lines and 3 a.m. store openings is sure to look different this year.

Retailers have to both make shoppers feel safe with coronavirus precautions and deal with inventory issues and customers who might be less willing to spend in a recession.

Over the weekend, three of the most popular Black Friday destinations — Walmart, Best Buy, and Target — released their plans for the shopping holiday.

Here’s how they compare.

Walmart

Walmart store customerCourtesy of Walmart

Walmart is starting its “Black Friday Deals for Days” sales online at 7 p.m. ET on Wednesday. The sales will start in stores at 5 a.m. on Saturday.

Deals will centre on toys, electronics, and home products and include Walmart’s annual tire event with deals on Goodyear tires.

Walmart’s deals the next week will work the same way, with deals on electronics starting online the evening of November 11 and moving into stores early November 14.

The third week will have deals on electronics, apparel, and home decor.


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For all in-store sales, Walmart will limit the number of customers inside to allow for social distancing. Each shopper will get a sanitised cart when they enter, and “health ambassadors” will remind them to wear masks, Walmart said.

“By spreading deals out across multiple days and making our hottest deals available online, we expect the Black Friday experience in our stores will be safer and more manageable for both our customers and our associates,” Executive Vice President Scott McCall said in a statement.

Best Buy

Best buyAP/Sue Ogrocki

Best Buy offered a similar plan, with short sales with names like “The Wish List Sale” throughout November. Then all Black Friday deals will be available on November 22.

Stores will be closed on Thanksgiving and open at 5 a.m. on Black Friday. Like Walmart, Best Buy will require customers to wear face masks and will limit the number of shoppers inside.

Best Buy is offering contactless curbside pickup along with in-store pickup. (Walmart will also have curbside pickup, but Best Buy’s statement emphasised its delivery options more.)

Best Buy said that “almost all” stores would have same-day delivery and that free next-day delivery would be available across the country.

Prime Day and early holiday sales have increased mail volumes and added stress to an already overwhelmed US Postal Service. Best Buy planners seem to have taken this into account, saying buyers will be able to pick up orders at UPS and CVS locations across the US.

Target

FILE PHOTO: A Target store is seen in the Brooklyn borough of New York, U.S., November 14, 2017.   REUTERS/Brendan McDermidReutersA Target store.

Like the other big retailers, Target is extending Black Friday.

Some deals are already in effect, with sales in different areas each week of November in its “Black Friday Now” event.

Deals will be announced each Thursday for the following week. In-store and curbside pickup will both be available, plus same-day delivery on some items with Shipt.

With Black Friday deals more spread out than ever, Target’s price-match guarantee could be useful. Buyers can ask for a price adjustment for any deal offered at a lower price at Target stores or its website through Christmas Eve, the retailer said.

3 stores, 3 different pandemic Black Friday approaches

All three giant retailers have adopted similar strategies for accommodating Black Friday in the COVID-19 era, though each focused on a different aspect.

The biggest change from previous years is spreading sales across the month instead of packing them into one day. Deals will be divided by type of product, so electronics shoppers won’t have to fight with home-goods buyers and parents picking up last-minute toys.

Walmart’s statement focused on store safety and measures like sanitised carts and advisors to make sure shoppers follow mask-wearing and social-distancing rules.

Best Buy — and, to a lesser extent, Target — focused its statement on options to get orders without going inside stores. That may be appealing to customers who want to avoid crowded stores during a pandemic, though it could backfire if mail systems are overwhelmed and packages arrive late.

The retailers seem to be responding to consumer demands. The National Retail Federation said last week that nearly 69% of retailers that responded to a survey said they expected consumers to start their holiday shopping in October.

The organisation projected that overall holiday spending would be slightly down, at $US997.79 per consumer, but 60% of shoppers in its survey said they planned to do at least some holiday shopping online.

Analysts from eMarketer predicted that holiday spending this year would total about $US1 trillion, with a slight decrease in in-store sales but a 35% jump in online sales.

The analysts predicted that as shoppers avoid crowds and are drawn in with monthlong sales, e-commerce spending would make up about $US190 billion of the $US1 trillion in holiday spending, which could exceed the capacity of shipping companies and cause delays.

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