Black Friday 2020 looks bleak at stores, malls, as shoppers stick to couch surfing during the pandemic

Hardly any lines. Empty parking lots. More employees than customers in stores.

These are just some of the scenes playing out across the United States the morning of Black Friday 2020, a shopping holiday that in the past has drawn hoards of people to stores to score doorbuster deals before daylight even breaks.

But this year Black Friday looks a lot different. The coronavirus pandemic has instilled in many consumers a heightened sense of anxiety around going to stores. Most retailers had their doors closed on Thanksgiving, and opened at later hours the morning of Black Friday, as they moved more doorbuster deals online to allow people to shop safely from the comfort of their home.

Even the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has advised consumers to shop deals online on Black Friday, to use curbside pickup if they are venturing to stores, and to favor open-air shopping centers over enclosed malls.

“This is really happening … there are not huge lines wrapped around buildings. Consumers have adapted very quickly,” said Coresight Research Founder and CEO Deborah Weinswig. “I took a video in Bed Bath & Beyond, and there’s nobody in the whole store.”

“Walmart had no holiday decor, no Christmas music … you wouldn’t have known it was Black Friday,” she added about one store she visited.

Some people took to Twitter on Friday morning to share photos of almost empty malls, including the Mall of America.

“People are not out,” said David Bassuk, a managing director for AlixPartners in New York. “I think people realize that they can get the deals at home.”

And the people that are going out are using services like curbside pickup, he said.

Adobe Analytics said the number of orders fulfilled using curbside pickup have already seen more than 100% growth year over year through this week.

Meantime, online, Thanksgiving Day spending rose by nearly 22% year over year to $5.1 billion, hitting a new record, according to Adobe data.

A survey released by ShopperTrak in October forecasted that traffic in retail stores is expected to be down 22% to 25% year over year during the six key weeks of the holiday shopping season.

Still, lines were spotted at some stores including Victoria’s Secret, for a sale on pajamas, and Lululemon.

This story will be developed throughout the day. Please check back for updates.

Follow CNBC’s updates on Black Friday here.

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