The New Black Friday: Local, national retailers making changes for Black Friday shopping

CHARIS PATIRES
Target baskets are cleaned to ensure shopper safety during the COVID pandemic.

COVID has left many holiday shoppers wondering what Black Friday shopping will look like this year. For the most part, it seems to be business as usual for local businesses and national retailers that will have their doors open the day after Thanksgiving for the traditional kick off to the holiday shopping season. 

Most stores have incorporated changes to ensure the health and safety of their employees and customers by encouraging or mandating face coverings, increasing sanitation efforts, and installing protective shields at the checkout. With the anticipated long lines that Black Friday usually brings, many big-box stores are rolling out deals for more than just one day in an effort to deter overcrowding. 

Stores located at the Osage Beach Outlet Marketplace have been offering early holiday savings and have extended holiday hours. On Black Friday, stores will be open from 6 a.m.-9 p.m. Three stores located at the mall have curbside pickup available to customers who choose to shop online. 

Kohl’s in Lake Ozark, and across the country, will open at 5 a.m. the day after Thanksgiving. According to the corporate website, they’ve added health and safety measures including requiring associates and customers to wear face coverings. The company will also make Black Friday week deals available online and in-store to give customers access to great deals however they choose to shop. 

Several months ago Walmart announced how they would handle the holiday shopping season. The company has spread out its Black Friday savings during “Black Friday Deals for Days” with three separate savings events being held throughout the month of November. According to a press release issued by the company, each event begins online and continues in stores. Customers will also have the option to pick up their orders through Walmart’s contact-free curbside pickup service.  

At Target it’s been Black Friday all month long with new deals announced each week. They’ve also incorporated a few ways customers can skip the line such as contactless self-checkout, and made available an online platform for customers to track whether there is a line outside their local store and a way to reserve a spot if there is. 

LOCALLY-OWNED BUSINESSES ARE ADAPTING

Now, more than ever, lake area businesses owners are saying they need people to remember to shop local and support their community.  

Most local businesses are following CDC guidelines by having employees wear masks, social distancing and cleaning, but a majority are leaving the decision to wear masks up to their customers.  

Located in Osage Beach, Country Crossroads owner Selynn Barbour said customers’ safety is their number one priority at all times, not just on Black Friday. A sign on their door shares store safety policies which most customers adhere to. Barbour says they follow Camden County guidelines and CDC recommendations, and limit the number of shoppers allowed into the store at one time. 

We want (customers) to feel safe and have a stress-free and fun shopping experience,” Barbour said. “We continuously clean throughout the shop with approved CDC products including UV blue light technology especially at the check out area and entrance/exit. In addition, we offer free hand sanitizer outside our front door before entering our shop. We offer additional free hand sanitizer at the check out. Our staff wears masks. We offer free masks if a customer would like one. Fortunately, we are a large store with wide aisles so social distancing is easy to maintain.”

Following the lead of many retailers, instead of focusing on one day, Country Crossroads has been offering Christmas open house celebrations every Saturday in November coinciding with Shop Small Saturday. In addition, the store offers free virtual shopping, can arrange after-hours shopping, shipping and curbside pickup. 

“Whatever is easiest and wished for by our customers, we will happily serve them,” Barbour said. 

Tiffany Ash, owner of Gold + Gray on the Bagnell Dam Strip says she’ll be promoting shopping online as well as have in-store hours. Her store does not require the use of face masks but does ask customers to social distance and takes other precautions. The boutique clothing store usually doesn’t see very many customers at one time, and won’t have lines of people taking advantage of her Black Friday specials like large retailers. 

Mike Page, owner of Grandma’s Candy Kitchen, Dogpatch and the Leatherman on the Bagnell Dam Strip says they will continue the safety procedures that were put in place all summer. The candy store is often busy with holiday shoppers picking up bags of goodies. 

Customers are not required to wear masks, but staff members wear them at all times. Hand sanitizer is provided at the entrance and for items that customers serve themselves (like saltwater taffy and Jelly Belly beans) they are required to use disposable gloves which are provided. 

To prevent overcrowding in the shop, a “stop” sign is displayed at the entrance to alert customers. If several customers are already inside, they can wait outside until signaled to enter by an employee or wait until the customers have left. 

CYBER MONDAY & CONTACT-FREE SHOPPING

Locally-owned businesses have had to adapt to the needs of customers in the midst of a pandemic. Earlier this year, when businesses were forced to shut their doors, many turned to Facebook to offer customers a way to continue to shop. Clothing boutiques, specialty stores and other local businesses hosted Facebook live fashion shows and had to get creative by offering various opportunities to shop online. 

There are many advantages of shopping local. Not only do you support the people who live and work in the community, often merchandise is unique and you’ll get personalized service with customer service. Locally-owned businesses are more likely to customize the shopping experience for customers depending on their needs. Many will offer after-hours shopping, ship merchandise and provide curbside pickup. Others are focusing their efforts online with sales and promotions targeting holiday shoppers. 

Splendor in the Rough ownerMichaelyn Maples-Hutzler  says since she does not have a storefront, she relies on online sales all year long. Offering unique home decor merchandise on Facebook, Instagram, Etsy and Amazon Handmade, she’ll be promoting some fun, Black Friday sales on social media platforms over the course of several days. 

Local restaurants, beauty salons and service-based businesses will be offering gift certificates to increase their sales this holiday season — most can be purchased online or by calling the store. 

Several lake area attractions are offering discounts on season passes, local spas are offering vouchers and buy-one-get one deals with the purchase of a gift card or service, and holiday open houses are being hosted to drum up business.