MILWAUKEE — The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted many major retailers to change their Black Friday traditions, as many chose to stay closed on Thanksgiving Day.
Best Buy, Target and Walmart are part of a long list of companies that announced they would remain closed on Thanksgiving, and instead open early on Black Friday—a major shift from years past.
A spokesperson for Target said the decision was made for "safety and ease."
Walmart CEO John Furner released a statement that reads in part, "We know this has been a trying year, and our associates have stepped up. We hope they will enjoy a special Thanksgiving Day at home with their loved ones. We are certainly thankful to our people for all of their efforts.”
TMJ4 News spoke to its media partners at the Milwaukee Business Journal. Editor-in-Chief Mark Kass said many retailers are directing more of their holiday sales focus online.
"They're really driving everything online this year, so to open today just doesn't really make sense anymore," Kass said.
The National Retail Federation projects online and other non-store holiday sales will increase between 20 and 30 percent this year to at least $202 billion, up from about $168 billion in 2019.
Kass said many retailers report having Black Friday sales lasting weeks.
"I just don't think it's going to be all on 24 hours as it has been in the past, it's going to be spread out over the entire month, you're going to see sales for the entire month, really all the way up through Christmas," Kass said. "They're really going to try and make this kind of more of a three to four week period, as much as they can online, because online it's just easier right now."
Kass said he doesn't expect many long lines or crowds at stores this year.
The only retailer TMJ4 could find open on Thanksgiving was Cabela's in Richfield. There weren't any big crowds there, but one shopper from Muskego said he came in part because he wanted to get out of the house.
"I like coming in the store, and I saw that it would be open 'til 6 o'clock, and got done with all the dinner business, and rather than take a nap, I thought I would just take a walk," said Jim Nikolopoulos.
In the meantime, big box stores are working extra hard to make sure customers who do shop in person are safe. Many are providing shopping reservations and curbside pickup, as well as limiting the amount of people in the store and requiring masks.