WELLINGTON — The calendar said Black Friday, but the parking lots at retailers across Palm Beach County indicated it might as well have been a typical Saturday afternoon as shoppers seemingly opted for internet sales because of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
The day seen as the apex of the holiday shopping season was almost eerily quiet, and while some stores experienced a busier-than-usual Friday, visits by Palm Beach Post reporters to several area retailers showed a calmer, socially distanced Black Friday and consumers wary of in-person shopping.
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At the Super Target on State Road 7 at Lantana Road south of Wellington, a modest line of customers stood 6 feet apart before the doors opened at 7 a.m. Friday. Those who entered were required to wear a mask, and only one of Target’s two main entrances was open for the first shoppers.
Shoppers inside the store and other retail outlets visited Friday morning mostly kept their distance from others as recommended by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to hamper the spread of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
The regulated flow of consumers down popular aisles was a marked change from past years, when people would go elbow-to-elbow as they jockeyed for deals.
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Kelly Ramsaran is among those who in the past would have been at Target when the store opened. It became a tradition for her family to head to the retailer after Thanksgiving dinner, with Ramsaran, her siblings and their families tracking down the best prices Target had to offer.
This year, she did almost all of her holiday shopping online.
“I almost went to Old Navy because it opened at midnight but changed my mind,” she said.
The primary reason behind her decision to shop online: COVID-19.
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“I didn’t trust that other people would be socially responsible,” Ramsaran said. “And I didn’t trust that the stores would have enough associates to help keep people distanced.”
Since stores reopened after closing this spring because of the pandemic, Ramsaran said she noticed a shortage in employees at retail stores. That falls in line with reports from national retailers that they have either laid off or furloughed employees because of the economic effects of the pandemic.