Shoppers began trickling into stores early Friday morning to take advantage of Black Friday deals, after the COVID pandemic kept many in-store shoppers home last year.
This year, with vaccines now widely available for a majority of Americans, an estimated 2 million more people are expected to shop from now thru Cyber Monday. Still, holiday shopping is not back to pre-pandemic levels.
By 7 a.m. on Friday, mall parking lots in shopping centers like Burlington and Wrentham were nearly full.
Many already started shopping well before Black Friday, partly over fears of supply chain shortages.
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According to the National Retail Federation, the top three items this year are clothing, gift cards, and toys.
But the convenience of online shopping has changed Black Friday. Big crowds are not the norm anymore.
"I try to do it online. I try to avoid the traffic, the personalities," Roxbury resident Aramindo Consalves said. "You order it. It gets to your house. You get it safe. Call it a day."
Summer McGeever feels the same, although she was out at the mall Friday with her daughter Bridget.
"We're doing a little bit of shopping with her so she can be in the store to pick out certain items for family members," McGeever said of her daughter, "but if I know what I'm getting I just order it."
Bridget's need to check stuff out in person is huge when it comes to retailer's profit margins.
"The thing about face to face shopping... that's what brings about impulse buying and impulse buys are so important for the seller," said Jon Hurst with the Massachusetts Retailers Association.
Hurst says his members are anticipating a good holiday shopping season wherever people buy.
"Our survey of our members that sell in both worlds now... both brick and mortar and online... they're expecting a 9.5-percent increase in store and a 5.5-percent increase online," he said.
CambridgeSide's senior marketing director Melissa Lavita says the Cambridge mall's retailers are optimistic as well.
"I think they're expecting a good season," Lavita said. "You will see some of the sales have started even earlier than today. That's been a trend over the past few years. And we are definitely suggesting to shoppers if you see that gift that you really like buy it. You don't know what inventory levels are going to be like."
Black Friday Shopping
“We woke up quite early today to be able to get all the Black Friday deals,” said shopper Luisa Shida at CambridgeSide. “We went all the way to Somerville to Assembly Row and then we came back here because we knew there were some deals that were here.”
“We have a Secret Santa going on and as one does we have to get everything on Black Friday because we’re college students and we don’t have money,” said shopper Silvana Yarrington.
“So I was coming out for some chaos, hopefully, and as you can see there’s no chaos,” said shopper A.J. Belden. “Kind of sad.”