DOVER — At the start of the pandemic, many complained that single days felt like weeks or months.
More than a year-and-a-half later, COVID-19 is certainly stretching out Black Friday.
Friday is the day for post-Thanksgiving mega-deals, but for some retailers — large and small — the savings started weeks ago.
On Oct. 4, global e-commerce giant Amazon announced the start of what it called “Black Friday-worthy” specials, giving consumers the opportunity to start holiday shopping early.
Other major retailers also boarded the pre-Black Friday train, with Best Buy, Walmart and Target each announcing early ways to pinch pennies.
Even some local small businesses offered advance promotions.
Women’s apparel specialist gingham + grace clothing, an online and in-person boutique based in Harbeson, held a special sale Nov. 19.
“We did Pink Friday. It was a pre-Black Friday sale,” owner Jami Jackson said.
She designed the promotion to encourage shoppers to choose small, local stores for their holiday spending. The establishment’s website, app and showroom feature items from gingham + grace’s lines, as well as products from other area small businesses.
“We’re asking everyone to shop small first, even before Black Friday,” she said.
Ms. Jackson’s shop will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday for customers who want to continue their shopping traditions. There also will be some online deals.
“It’s going to be tons of discounts, giveaways, flash sales online, doorbusters in person,” she said.
Even vendors of handmade wares are getting in on the extended Black Friday phenomenon.
From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday, the Delaware Tourism Office, the town of Dewey Beach and the Developing Artist Collaboration will present the seventh annual Dewey Sip & Shop.
The event, along Dagsworthy Street, will feature local crafters and artisans selling their creations, as well as area breweries and wineries offering tastings.
Before the pandemic, the actual start of Black Friday was considered by some to be Thanksgiving night. For many years, retailers danced around being open on the holiday by unlocking their doors just before the clock struck midnight Friday. Some others began their big sales earlier on Thanksgiving Day.
But COVID-19 has made one national retailer rethink its plans. This week, Target announced that it will no longer have its stores open on Thanksgiving Day. Last year, to limit crowds, Target and many other establishments were forced to make changes to their holiday sales, and now, the big-box store has decided to continue that practice into the future.
“What started as a temporary measure driven by the pandemic is now our new standard — one that recognizes our ability to deliver on our guests’ holiday wishes both within and well beyond store hours,” Target CEO Brian Cornell wrote in a note to employees.
U.S. holiday sales last November and December rose 8.2% from the previous year, according to the National Retail Federation, the nation’s largest retail trade group. NRF predicts that 2021 could be even better, growing between 8.5% and 10.5%.
No matter whether shoppers have been taking advantage of Black Friday savings for weeks or are packing it all in on Friday, the event is steeped in tradition.
The term has been used for a few terrible things throughout history, but its connection to shopping started in Philadelphia in the 1950s.
According to history.com, police officers in the City of Brotherly Love began using the term to describe the chaos that occurred the day after Thanksgiving, when suburban shoppers and tourists swarmed the area in advance of the annual Army-Navy football game.
Local retailers unsuccessfully tried to rebrand the day to “Big Friday,” but, by the early 1960s, “Black Friday” caught on and started to spread across the country.