The trend of stores staying open to lure customers in on Thanksgiving Day has reversed, putting Black Friday back in its place as the biggest retail shopping day of the year.

Or has it?

The COVID-19 pandemic changed how stores handle sales, in-person crowds and the overall shopping experience adding curbside pick up service.

More importantly for brick-and-mortar stores, it also changed the way customers shop.

Regardless, stories are amping up the deals to get customers shopping, either inside their stores or online.

Walmart got an early start with several Black Friday sales in November, a practice began last year during the pandemic.

Black Friday 2018

Customers wait outside Ollie’s in Port Charlotte at 5 a.m. for the Black Friday sales in this 2018 file photo. Many stores normally open on Thanksgiving are closed this year and will reopen on Black Friday. Will the customers be there?

Instead of one big sale and in-store after-Thanksgiving door-buster deals, Walmart stores are closed today, but the retailer has online deals all day, featuring more new Black Friday sales.

Others followed Walmart including Target, Amazon, Costco and Best Buy. They offered Black Friday sales since early November to spread out demand and work through the shipping container shortages and to avoid COIVID-19 super spreader events.

Target also announced this week it will not open on Thanksgiving again. Target joins a list of stores closed Thanksgiving including Best Buy, Kohl’s, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Macy’s, and JCPenney. Closed on Thanksgiving, they will open early and close later on Black Friday.

Christina Ricapito, of Viva Health & Wellness in North Port, won’t be doing the rounds on Friday. These days, she stays at home in her jammies and shops online for gifts Thanksgiving morning.

“It makes it simple and easy,” she said. “There’s no fighting, no chaos of Black Friday while shopping online. The last time I battled the Black Friday frenzy, I had little kids.”

For the first time, Amazon is running Epic Daily Deals. Shoppers can head to Amazon’s website or app or ask your Echo device, “Alexa, what are my deals?” to see the deals of the day.

According to the Amazon website, there are “deep discounts” in all categories, with limited-time offers on popular products from Bose, Apple products and KitchenAid. New deals drop daily, but only last 24 hours.

For those who love the long lines, socializing and bargain hunting, local stores are stocked (in some case with limited supplies) and ready.

This year, nearly 2 million more people than last year are expected to shop from Thanksgiving Day through Cyber Monday, according to the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics.

“We’re expecting another record-breaking holiday season this year and Thanksgiving weekend will play a major role as it always has,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said in a statement. “Nonetheless, consumers started earlier than ever to be sure they can get what they want, when they want it, at a price they want to pay. Black Friday stopped being a one-day event years ago, and this year some consumers started shopping for Christmas as early as Halloween.”

NRF forecast is holiday sales will grow between 8.5% and 10.5% over 2020 to between $843.4 billion and $859 billion — setting records for both the growth rate and total amount spent.

Consumers are expected to spend an average $997.73 this year.

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