There were no overcrowded malls on Friday, no long lines of people waiting to get into stores at midnight, no frenzied shoppers trying to beat each other to the last PlayStation.
Instead, Black Friday shopping in the age of COVID-19 was done mainly online, with 60% of consumers saying they planned to buy holiday items that way this year and nearly all online shoppers saying they planned to take advantage of free shipping, according to a survey of 7,660 consumers by the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics.
“I’m not expecting a gangbuster year,” Jon B. Hurst, president of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts, said Friday.
While fears about the coronavirus kept many people away from stores, others ventured out with masks on to shop without the frenzied crowds of yesteryear.
“I’ve been here other years, standing in lines outside just to get in. But this is sparse. It’s sad,” Tina Stevens, 54, of Cambridge, said at the CambridgeSide mall. “I bought myself some sweatpants because that’s all we’re living in today: pajamas and sweats.”
Even though she has cancer, which makes her at greater risk of contracting the coronavirus, Stevens said she doesn’t shop online.
“I’d rather come to a store and see what I’m buying so I don’t have to ship anything I don’t want back,” she said. “And I can’t stay in the house. I have to get out. I wanted to be part of that Black Friday traditional thing I’ve done every year.”
Clothing and accessories are the most popular gift category, according to 54% of those surveyed, followed by gift cards/gift certificates (49%), toys (37%), books and other media (34%) and food/candy (28%).
Jake Stha, a CambridgeSide vendor, is no longer selling Boston-themed souvenirs such as shirts and hats.
“This year,” he said, “I’m selling just masks” — sports masks, Black Lives Matter masks, “2020 sucks” masks.
“Business has been slow,” Stha said. “People are afraid to come to the mall.”
Similar to last year, consumers plan to purchase between three and four gift cards, for an average spend of $163 per consumer. Total spending on gift cards is expected to reach $27.5 billion, according to the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics survey.
The most-sought-after toys for boys and girls include LEGOs and PlayStation. Cars and trucks, Hot Wheels and video games are also popular gifts for boys, while Barbie and other dolls remain the top toys for girls.
In all, consumers plan to spend $997.79 on gifts, holiday items such as decorations and food, and other “nongift” purchases for themselves and their families, the survey found.
While overall spending is down by about $50 from last year, according to the survey, nearly all — $45 — of the decrease comes from consumers’ hesitation to use seasonal sales and promotions to buy other, nongift purchases for themselves and their families.