LOS ANGELES — Crowds appeared smaller and lines seemed shorter, but shoppers still awoke early on Black Friday for deals and tradition.
Retailers expected that 2020 would bring a subdued Black Friday, as coronavirus cases soar across the United States. Customers cautious about contracting the virus are expected to shop from home, accelerating the existing trend toward e-commerce. In parts of the country, public health rules now restrict stores from welcoming the hordes of customers that have defined the start of the holiday shopping season.
But those concerns and restrictions did not deter some shoppers from getting an early start.
Shayla Menendez, 14, and her family pulled into the parking lot at Citadel Outlets at 4:30, a.m., when the sky was still pitch black. She wore blue latex gloves and a pink patterned mask with a second cloth face covering peeking out at the edge — extra protection "only for today," she said.
Stores opened at 6 a.m.; soon after Menendez bought a Michael Kors wallet for her mom, now buried beneath the morning's other purchases at the bottom of a Gap shopping bag. "She'll love it," Menendez said.
Those who arrived early in Commerce to beat the usual lines found this year just a thin stream of people filing into the outdoor shopping center. Stores in Los Angeles County must limit occupancy to 25%, creating queues of shoppers, mostly keeping socially distanced, outside the doors of popular locations.
"It's much shorter and it's moving more quickly," said Gladys Delgado, 50, who stood in line outside Michael Kors with her daughter Adriana.
Adriana was worried about the spread of the coronavirus among the crowds of Black Friday shoppers but felt comforted after researching the safety precautions stores have rolled out.
Her mother was less bothered.
"People have been respectful in this area about wearing masks and keeping their distance. If they weren't doing that, we could just leave," Gladys Delgado said.