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Shoppers and retailers adapt to pandemic conditions on Black Friday
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Salvaging a HOLIDAY tradition

Shoppers and retailers adapt to pandemic conditions on Black Friday

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As she loaded shopping bags into the trunk of her car outside Kohl’s in Kenosha, Kathy Hartnek said she headed out to the stores the morning after Thanksgiving looking for something more than good deals.

She was looking to keep up a tradition in a year when sticking to tradition has been a nearly impossible challenge.

Thanksgiving itself was anything but traditional for Hartnek — and for most of us — this year. “It was just my boyfriend and my mother,” she said, and they feasted on chicken instead of turkey. A post-holiday trip to stock up on Christmas gifts let her return to routine.

“I have to go out on Black Friday, otherwise it’s just not normal,” she said.

And she said she did well. “There were great deals,” she said.

For traditional retailers, 2020 has been a difficult year as COVID-19 concerns pushed shoppers to shift to buying online. Many department stores and brick-and-mortar retailers had already been struggling in a changing retail environment before the pandemic, but the virus turned a tough environment into a treacherous one. Retail bankruptcies this year include J.C. Penney, Brooks Brothers, J. Crew, Pier I, and Lord & Taylor.

Double whammy

For small local and independent retailers, the market has been doubly challenging.

At Jack Andrea, 2401 60th St. in Kenosha, the holiday season is always a sales powerhouse in the business that has been tending to the community for more than 100 years. The shop is brightly decorated for Christmas, but David Andrea, one of the owners, said rising COVID numbers in Wisconsin prompted them to close to in-person shopping this week.

“We were worried about our employees,” Andrea said. “We wanted to keep them safe and we wanted to keep our customers safe.”

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The store — a holiday tradition for many Kenosha residents — is offering online shopping, call-in orders and curbside pickup, but the family decided to close to in-person shopping starting Friday morning.

“We hope to reopen in-store in time for Christmas,” he said, but will base their plans on what they see in COVID data.

Andrea said making the shift is difficult because the store makes much of its annual income during the holiday season, and moving to virtual sales is not easy because their entire collection is not online. The store had been closed due to the pandemic from March through September, so the business had already lost income.

But he said they did not want to be part of the problem in spreading the disease.

“It’s been a difficult year to say the least,” Andrea said.

Increase in sales projected

Even with the pandemic, the National Retail Federation is forecasting that holiday season sales nationally will increase between 3.6 percent and 5.2 percent over 2019 to a total of $755.3 to $766.7 billion. The holiday season accounts for about 19 percent of annual retail sales.

According to the federation’s survey of shoppers, 59 percent of Americans — an estimated 137.4 million people — plan to or are considering shopping during the Thanksgiving weekend, with 74 percent of those who did plan to shop saying they would do so on Black Friday. Those numbers include plans for both in-store and online shopping.

In Kenosha County Friday, retailers were busy, but appeared to be more sparsely populated than in the past even with stores offering sales and discounts. Although there were lines outside of some stores, there was plenty of parking available at places like Pleasant Prairie Premium Outlets.

Outside Dick’s Sporting Goods in Pleasant Prairie, a shopper, who did not want to be identified, was strapping a boxed treadmill to a trailer. It was a gift for his wife, who put a treadmill on her wish list. “It was a good deal, 40 percent off,” he said.

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