The death of Black Friday? After COVID, some say retailers won’t go back to usual shopping spree

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Colin Rohach has been Black Friday shopping as long as he can remember. Each year, he devised his plan ahead of time with a single focus on the hot items in demand.

“What I used to do is, you go the day before and you hide all the stuff you want behind the toilet paper,” Rohach said. “But there’s no toilet paper left, so you can’t do that anymore.”

Two years ago, the hot item was the Nintendo Switch.

“I heard they were having them at GameStop, so I left during Thanksgiving dinner to go stand in line,” Rohach said.

The long wait standing in line ended with the trilling mad rush to get in and grab what he wanted.

“Seeing, like, hordes of people storm a Target for a Nintendo or something, I think those days are gone,” Rohach said.

COVID-19 forcing a new way of shopping for the holidays could signal the death of Black Friday, UMKC Economics Associate Professor Dr. Linwood Tauheed said.

“If you mean by Black Friday as a singular event on a particular Friday, I think that’s probably true,” he said.

Instead, COVID-19 has sparked a new phenomenon: Black November. Most retailers have been forced to offer online sales throughout the month and designate just a few days for in-store sales on specific items.

Large companies like Amazon, Target, Walmart, Best Buy and others may actually benefit from a Black November, but moving away from Black Friday may prove to be detrimental to small retailers.

“So if you’re a small retailer and you don’t have a fleet of trucks and you have to pay UPS to deliver your products, you’re not going to be able to meet the competition,” Tauheed said.

Erin Leonard, manager of local retailer Bag and Baggage Luggage, agrees.

“I mean, it definitely is hard to compete with Amazon. We just want everyone to know the importance of shopping local,” she said.

Bag and Baggage hasn’t done much for Black Friday in the past, but the small business is going all out this year. It’s banking on the shopping day to help make up for losses due to COVID-19.

The retailer is partnering a Black Friday sale with the store’s 40th anniversary and news of a COVID-19 vaccine that Leonard is hoping will spark travel again.

Leonard believes a deep discount and personal touch will trump the online shopping experience.

“There’s lots of ways to shop with us,” Leonard said. “Zoom calls, private shopping appointments. I’ve shown luggage while people sit in their car in the parking lot. So it’s still safe to shop.”

No longer able to hide what he wants behind toilet paper, Rohach is still perfecting his new Black Friday shopping plan, keeping track of online sales. The law student even hit a PlayStation 5 release that dropped during one of his classes.

“And I was ready, I had everything ready. My credit card was ready and everything,” Rohach said. “And I tried to buy one, and they were gone in 30 seconds.”

His last hope for a PlayStation 5 will be to see if it’s sitting under the tree Christmas morning — if Rohach’s name is on Santa’s nice, not naughty, list.

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