Retailers ready for second pandemic-era Black Friday

Black Friday shoppers will encounter a more traditional shopping experience this year, but for the second year in a row, many businesses will be closed today for the holiday.

Many retail stores across Johnson County, including Best Buy, Kohl’s, Target and Walmart will be closed today. The Greenwood Park Mall and the Indiana Premium Outlets in Edinburgh will be closed as well — much like last year.

Stores opening late Thursday for Black Friday sales became a tradition in recent years, but last year many stores chose to dial that back due to COVID-related safety concerns. Many stores opened on Friday morning for sales, something that will happen again this year.

Earlier this week, Target announced it would no longer open on Thanksgiving in the future. CEO Brian Cornell told employees the temporary measure is now the company’s new standard, The Associated Press reported.

At Best Buy in Greenwood, Black Friday sales began online Oct. 18. Shoppers can take advantage of Black Friday deals online at Best or in the Best Buy App, or schedule an in-home consultation. You can also shop in store or schedule a visit ahead of time, according to Best Buy.

The retailer will open at 5 a.m. on Friday, and is offering both in-store and contactless curbside pickup options, with some pickups ready in an hour. Pickups will also be available at more than 16,000 alternate locations, and free shipping on thousands of items, the store said.

Best Buy recommends face coverings for all customers, and will have them available. All employees are required to wear a mask and follow enhanced safety measures, such as daily wellness checks and regular cleaning of high-touch areas, according to Best Buy.

Kohl’s, with local stores in Franklin and Greenwood, will open its doors at 5 a.m. Friday. Kohl’s Black Friday deals began on Nov. 5 with hundreds of deals both in store and online. But on Friday, customers will have access to “super savings” on hundreds of products, according to a Kohl’s news release.

The store will also have contactless drive-up and in-store pickup available at its stores for no additional cost, the news release said.

At Target in Greenwood doors are expected to open at 7 a.m. on Friday. New this year, the retailer has added more than 18,000 drive-up spots for curbside pickup and tripled the number of store fulfillment experts nationwide to better serve customers. Both drive-up and order pickup services are free and contactless, according to a Target news release.

Also new this year is a feature dubbed “Shopping Partner,” which allows guests to send someone else to pick up their orders when they are unable to, the news release said.

Face coverings are also strongly recommended for those who are not fully vaccinated or live in areas at high risk of community spread of COVID-19, according to Target.

Walmart stores in Franklin and Greenwood will open their doors at 5 a.m. Friday, continuing its second “Black Friday Deals for Days” months-long promotion. The promotion began online Nov. 3, and in stores Nov. 5, with early access given to online Black Friday events to Walmart+ members, according to a Walmart news release.

The retailer spread out its Black Friday deals to three events throughout November, available both in store and online.

With the safety of customers and employees in mind, the events are designed for a safe, enjoyable experience. All the deals will be available online, and to help ensure safe shopping in stores, the retailer will follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance, the news release said.

Walmart employees are required to wear face coverings, and all customers are encouraged to wear face coverings, regardless of vaccination status. Employees are also working hard to keep stores stocked and sanitized, the news release said.

Customers can pick up their online Black Friday orders through Walmart’s contact-free curbside pickup service, according to the news release.

Walmart also expanded its delivery options by extending store delivery hours, adding additional delivery windows and adding more items to its allowed delivery list from local stores. Delivery will be unavailable on Thanksgiving, and will open back up at 12 p.m. Friday.

The Greenwood Park Mall and Indiana Premium Outlets will open to Black Friday shoppers at 6 a.m. Friday.

As local residents prepare to go Black Friday shopping, COVID-19 cases are up again. For each day last week, positive cases were over or near 100 per day in Johnson County. This week, the number of new cases remained under 60 until Wednesday, when 84 new cases were reported, according to data from the Indiana Department of Health.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says people should avoid crowded, poorly ventilated spaces, and in areas with substantial to high community spread of COVID-19, everyone should wear a mask in public indoor settings — even those who are fully vaccinated. Johnson County was in the high category for community spread as of Wednesday, according to the CDC.

Those who choose to shop in person on Black Friday should try to maintain as much social distancing as possible. If shopping in a group, know your social circle and who they’ve been exposed to in the event they test positive for COVID-19, said Betsy Swearingen, director of the Johnson County Health Department.

Swearingen also encourages those who are not vaccinated to get vaccinated against COVID-19. If you are not vaccinated, you should wear a mask in public, she said.

“Everyone should try to stay safe this holiday season,” she said.

Vaccines, as well as more drugs and therapies to treat the virus, have been more available this year compared to last year. Though there has been a vaccine available for nearly a year, just 86,184, or 58.1%, of county residents aged five and up have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 out of an eligible population of 148,304, IDOH data shows.