SAN JOSE, CA – NOVEMBER 27: Black Friday shoppers brave temperatures in the mid-30’s, Friday, Nov. 27, 2020, while waiting outside the Santana Row Best Buy store for its 5 AM opening in San Jose, Calif. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)
On a day traditionally marked by doorbuster deals and frenzied shoppers jostling each other inside packed store aisles, Bay Area residents who ventured out early today seeking the rush of Black Friday instead found a scene of socially distanced lines, curbside pickups and customer capacity limits.
The parking garages and lots around San Jose’s Santana Row and Westfield Valley Fair shopping mall were nowhere near ful at dawn and few customers were waiting in lines outside of stores.
“It sucks,” Jackie Ortiz, of Castro Valley, said Friday morning while standing in a small line outside Best Buy in San Jose’s Santana Row.
Ortiz said she’s happy to see safety protocols in place to limit the spread of the coronavirus, but the excitement that marked past years was gone.
Ortiz and her family normally dive headlong into the tradition, once even combining it with a vacation to Oregon to avoid the sales tax. But this year, “we’re just excited a store is still open,” she said.
Around 5:45 a.m., a Best Buy employee monitoring the line said only about 40 people had been allowed inside at that point because the store was limiting the number of shoppers to 25 at once.
Because of the surging coronavirus pandemic, retailers in most Bay Area counties are under strict public health restrictions to limit their occupancy to 25%. The Santa Clara County Public Health Department announced earlier this week that code enforcement officers would patrol malls and big-box stores, prepared to issue citations with fines ranging from $250 to thousands of dollars to businesses that don’t comply with public health mandates, such as occupancy limits and mask and social distancing requirements.
On top of those limitations, an overnight curfew declared by Gov. Gavin Newsom last week also put a kibosh on middle-of-the-night shoppers.
Though some people lined up a bit before Santana Row’s Best Buy opening at 5 a.m., the hour when the state’s curfew is lifted, an employee said no police or government officials were seen enforcing the rule.
Despite the restrictions on stores and a vastly different Black Friday experience in 2020, shoppers who still came out expressed similar sentiments about wanting to keep traditions alive in a decidedly non-traditional year.
Genessa, 20, of Santa Cruz, usually likes to get out as early as 3 a.m. for Black Friday because she enjoys the experience. This year, with state curfew in effect, she was one of the first customers into Best Buy a little after 5 a.m.
“I couldn’t go see my family this year for Thanksgiving, so it’s like a sense of normalcy,” she said about coming out for Black Friday shopping. “It’s helping me feel like we’re not in an apocalypse.”
Others came out to stores for more practical reasons, like Gustavo Cuevas, 23, of San Jose.
He went to the store with his cousin so they could get a better deal on a television through price matching, something Best Buy doesn’t offer online. “There are not many people here,” he said. “Mostly it’s just like a normal day.”
Most retailers had already launched holiday promotions prior to Friday to discourage people from crowding their stores this weekend. Although the National Retail Federation reported this week that consumers were eager to shop this season after the challenging year, much of the predicted 5.2% growth in retail sales over last year will come from online sales, which are expected to grow 20 to 30% this year, according to the federation.