As the US registers record cases and hospitalizations, officials have urged people to start their holiday shopping from home. Most retailers moved their Black Friday sales online to prevent overcrowding in stores.
Malls and shopping centers across the United States were missing the usual Black Friday crowds this year, after political leaders and health officials urged people to stay home in light of the coronavirus pandemic.
Instead, a large increase in online shopping is expected to give hope to retailers who have been struggling after months of low sales, with many businesses pushed to the brink of bankruptcy.
"Remember, skip the crowds and shop from home this Black Friday," Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear wrote on Twitter, a statement that was echoed by officials across the country.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), shopping in crowded stores during the holiday season has been deemed a "higher risk" activity during the pandemic. People have been urged to limit any in-person shopping.
This has prompted many stores to move their doorbuster deals online and laying more emphasis on curbside pickups. Many have also ramped up safety protocols to reassure customers who come in on Black Friday — the busiest shopping day of the year under regular circumstances.
Read more: The battle to deliver your online shopping
"We have been intentional to try to not create the frenzy, the doorbusters, the long lines and the crowds you typically see on a Black Friday, '' said Stephen Lebovitz, CEO of CBL, which operates nearly 100 malls. The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy this month.
Stores that routinely saw thousands of shoppers on Black Friday reported just hundreds.
The US has seen a record number of infections and hospitalizations in recent weeks, pushing many states to enforce stricter coronavirus prevention measures as they await the government approval of potential COVID-19 vaccines from pharmaceutical giants Pfizer and Moderna.
Similar measures have been taken across the world, with stray incidents of overcrowding at shopping centers.
In the Dutch city of Rotterdam, the Black Friday shopping rush at stores downtown prompted the city's mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb to close stores early. The city has been in partial lockdown to control the spread of the virus.
see/rs (AP, Reuters, dpa)