Skip to content
Subscriber Only
Businessweek
Business

Retailers Brace for a Black Friday Without Crowds

Pandemic fears, distancing requirements, and job losses could dampen holiday madness.
A Black Friday frenzy at Macy’s flagship store in New York in 2018.

A Black Friday frenzy at Macy’s flagship store in New York in 2018.

Photographer: Stephanie Keith/Reuters

Most years, Cassandra Davis wakes up at the crack of dawn on Black Friday armed with a battle plan formed with circled newspaper ads and some online research. She warms up her car in the Minneapolis winter for half an hour before driving to Target, Walmart, or J.C. Penney to cash in on the deals they’re offering. Her biggest prize in the past decade: a large flatscreen TV she scored for $700.

In 2020 she’s not sure her tradition will survive. “I have to think about all of the what-ifs,” 50-year-old Davis says. “I’m really just watching the dollar even if things are inexpensive. We still have to be careful, because we don’t know what happens day to day with this pandemic.”