Black Friday Is Now Just a Concept at Home Depot as Virus Rages

(Bloomberg) — Home Depot Inc. isn’t giving any extra incentive this Black Friday for shoppers to line up at 6 a.m.

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A shopper wearing a protective mask pushes a cart at a Home Depot Inc. store in Jersey City, New Jersey, U.S., on Friday, Aug. 14, 2020. Home Depot is scheduled to release earnings figures on August 18.

In a move that might help crack down on crowding during the coronavirus pandemic, the retailer said that for the first time, its Black Friday prices will be available throughout the entire holiday season, preventing the need to swarm on the actual day after Thanksgiving. The sales will be available both in-store and online.

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The Atlanta-based retailer said in a statement Wednesday it’s trying to end the “one day of frenzied shopping,” though a Home Depot company spokeswoman said there may still be a few “unique deals” that launch later in the season.

The shift — especially if mirrored by other retailers — could also signal the end of days for Black Friday as we know it. The day had already been losing its cachet before 2020, with online events like Cyber Monday gaining traction and holiday deals starting earlier and earlier. A new virus-induced fear of crowding has only added another hiccup for the shopping day, once seen as the unofficial kickoff for the holiday season.

But even if Black Friday doesn’t mean what it once did, retailers still depend on the crucial shopping season, which represents about 20% of annual retail sales each year — and much more for some retailers. That’s especially the case this year, since the novel coronavirus disrupted retailers’ selling plans and dramatically altered consumer behavior.

And while Home Depot, like others, will be closed on Thanksgiving Day itself, it has decided not to close physical stores on Black Friday. The spokeswoman pointed to social distancing within the stores, a customer and associate mask mandate, floor markers at checkout, overhead announcements and social distancing captains stationed throughout the stores as protections already in place long ahead of Black Friday.

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©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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