The long lines and large crowds synonymous with Black Friday were nowhere to be seen in Turlock this year as many opted to skip the wait in favor of online shopping during the coronavirus pandemic.
Even with capacity guidelines in place at stores throughout Monte Vista Crossings, the common sight of lines snaking out of shops as customers eagerly awaited entrance was gone on Friday morning. In a departure from the norm, most stores were not open on Thanksgiving Day and chose to open later than usual on Black Friday. Instead, it’s been easy to find Black Friday deals both online and in stores for the past month as retailers tried to find ways to keep crowds to a minimum and offer shoppers safe, alternative methods of scoring discounts.
Marina Garcia of Modesto and Leticia Aldana of Ceres said during a normal year, they are Black Friday shopping enthusiasts. This year, everything changed.
“We were those dedicated Black Friday shoppers — the ones who would wake up super, super early and wait in line outside for hours, then have a plan laid out with everything we knew we needed and wanted,” Garcia said. “This year was sad.”
Out of concern for the virus and due to convenience, Aldana said, she completed a majority of her shopping online. She would have normally had a fun day of shopping with her friend, but this year the only store they went to was Bath & Body Works in Turlock to pick up an online order.
“We used to be excited about this day every year,” Aldana said.
Both women said that they noticed a drastic difference in the number of Black Friday shoppers out and about on Friday — and that even the streets seemed to have less traffic. While shopping online proved to be more convenient and safer for their taste this year, the unofficial holiday just didn’t feel the same.
“Shopping may have been easier, but we didn’t get all of that togetherness time like we would have in the past,” Garcia said. “There’s no feeling of dumping out our shopping bags and looking at our hauls at the end of the day. It makes me feel a little sad that we didn’t get to do what we usually do.”
In downtown Turlock, many stores didn’t open as early as they have in years past since many of the big box stores did not offer the typical crack-of-dawn deals. Glitz Fine Clothing opened an hour earlier than usual at 7 a.m. to offer customers 40% until 8 a.m. While a line of about 35 greeted owner Lisa Espinola as she opened up shop on Friday, that was the biggest rush the store experienced during that day that is typically their biggest revenue generator of the year.
“It’s a lot slower this year,” she said. “We’ll be lucky if we do half of what we did on this day last year.”
Glitz already missed out on its second-biggest shopping time period of the year in the spring during Mother’s Day and Easter, Espinola said, and is down in profit by about 58% since the pandemic began. She said that this year, she has noticed more people opting to shop online at big box retailers rather than come into their locally-owned stores.
“Target, Costco and all of those stores got to stay open during the shutdown. We had to close, and yet again they’re still getting a bigger piece of the pie because a lot of boutiques like us don’t have online shopping,” Espinola said.
She hoped that more customers would show up the following day for Small Business Saturday.
“The people who wanted to come out and shop today came out and shopped, and I’m hoping tomorrow does pick up,” she said. “It’s going to keep us afloat...I’m just hoping not to lose too much, and I know there are a lot of people out there who are doing their best to support small.”
Hilmar residents Korey Pettigrew and Tabitha Xavier went shopping at small businesses in downtown Turlock on Black Friday despite completing some shopping online and at larger shopping centers out of town throughout the week as deals were made readily available.
They both said they were expecting to see more shoppers on Main Street.
“You would have thought it would be busier downtown,” Xavier said. “We’ve been trying to support small businesses and shop local so it stinks to see everyone supporting all of the big companies still.”
While shopping at the outlet stores in Livermore days prior, Pettigrew said she could understand why more were opting to shop online rather than brave the crowds. Shoppers there were inconsiderate of social distancing, she said, and the scene looked similar to Black Friday shopping during a normal year.
Locally, however, emptier stores made it easier — and safer — to shop.
“It’s just felt weird this year,” Pettigrew said.
Rustic Roots owner Jennifer Roots-Souza said the pandemic affected her Black Friday differently than most of the other businesses downtown. She was in the unique position of not having enough products for her customers to browse, as many items on the sales floor have already been sold. Due to the pandemic, shipping on new products coming in has been “exceptionally” delayed, she said.
“We weren’t able to have a big sale because we didn’t have much to blow out and aren’t getting things shipped in on time,” Roots-Souza said. “It’s a good problem to have because we did a good job selling the items, but now we’re having a hard time getting things back in stock.”
Small Business Saturday is usually one of Rustic Roots’ most profitable days of the year, she added, and she’s expecting the same result this year despite the pandemic. The downtown Shop the Blocks event at the beginning of November brought plenty of shoppers into the store, so Roots-Souza hopes the community will support small businesses once again.
“Our locals want to support us, which I definitely felt during the Shop the Blocks event. I do think we’ll be busy on Small Business Saturday, but I’m not 100% sure,” she said. “We wouldn’t be in business if it weren’t for our community. They’re amazing and we’ve really felt that through COVID.”