Black Friday at OKC less “chaotic” thanks to online shopping offers

Jack Ramos waited outside an Academy Sports + Outdoors store in Edmond in the wee hours of Friday morning. He wanted to be the first to buy the sporting goods store’s thermal rifle scope, which he said had been reduced from its standard price of $ 500.

“I’m saving $ 150 on this bezel,” Ramos said. “It’s worth standing and standing in line for this.”

Two other people were there to take advantage of the Black Friday deals when the store opened at 5 a.m., and a dozen more showed up in the first hour of opening. The most popular items were bikes and basketball goals.

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But a dozen shoppers is a far cry from the frenzied hundreds that retailers have typically seen in recent years during Black Friday hours of operation, when people flocked to purchase the most popular merchandise at the lowest prices announced the day after Thanksgiving. .

And while Black Friday may have given a boost to sales at some specialty stores in the Oklahoma City metro area, the days of “door-to-door” chaos at many retailers appear to be over.

“Foot traffic was pretty slow today,” said Josh Carter, an employee of the Sam’s Club members-only warehouse store on Memorial Road, as noon approached. “Honestly, it was quite tame. I don’t know what I would attribute it to.”

But Andrea, a colleague, seemed to know the reason.

“Here at Sam’s, our Black Friday deals are extensive,” said Andrea. “It’s not a one-day kind of thing anymore. I think that’s why today feels like a normal Friday.”

Travis Corbin walks the store with a basketball goal attached while looking at other items while shopping on Black Friday at Academy Sports + Outdoors in Edmond.

Many retailers have offered early deals for Black Friday

Many big retail chains, including Sam’s Club, its parent company Walmart and their competitor Target, started offering discounts for Black Friday on Monday, if not earlier. It is part of a nationwide shift towards the expansion of online shopping options and offerings, in an attempt to better compete with e-commerce company Amazon.

In 2020, Walmart launched a special membership program called Walmart +, where a member who pays $ 98 per year has access to free shipping, free next day and two-day delivery, shopping features. Mobile “Scan & Go” in-store and early Black Friday. “Deals for Days” events.

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Marlainna Blackshire, a front-end coach at a Walmart in Edmond, said the expansion of online shopping and membership options affected her store’s Black Friday operations.

“We thought today was going to be chaos,” she said. “We had so many staff that we had to be here at 3 am this morning to open all the registers. But it was kind of like a normal day, and that’s because people could shop all week. . Walmart + members were able to get their deals early so they didn’t have to get up early this morning and come shopping. ”

Walmart + members used “Deals for Days” online access so much that AirPods, Apple Inc.’s wireless Bluetooth headphones, sold out before traditional Black Friday in-store shoppers could buy them.

People leave Walmart on I-35 with big toys during Black Friday shopping in Edmond.

How was Black Friday different this year?

Store manager Tasha Jasper said there were around 140 customers shopping in the store after the doors opened at 5 a.m. on Friday. It was a big change from 2019, when Jasper recalls that over 500 people attended.

“I felt a little more prepared this morning, but it really wasn’t chaotic,” Jasper said. “You could tell they had all been planning to get together traditionally, and everyone was really nice. It was a nice change of pace.”

Jasper said there were around 1,000 online transactions for his store during the last week of the Black Friday events.

But not all retailers have seen a decrease in in-person traffic due to the increase in online shopping.

By noon, dozens of shoppers were walking in and out of the Memorial Road storefront for Best Buy, an electronics retailer that has been enjoying Black Friday for years.

And other retailers, like Target and Academy Sports + Outdoors, have taken advantage of offering transportation and pickup services to customers.

“Of course, compared to last year, we saw a big increase in the number of customers entering stores,” said Tyler Sumrall, public relations specialist for Academy Sports. “Last year customers were a bit more reluctant to venture out because of COVID, but today we see them coming back, and it went on all morning.

“In some stores we had over 100 people lining up, and in others the queues were smaller, but we saw a constant influx of in-store and online traffic coming back.”

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Shoppers leave Target with carts full of items during Black Friday shopping in Edmond.

After facing criticism over the years for staying open over Thanksgiving in order to capitalize on the enthusiasm of Black Friday, Target and Walmart began to close their stores throughout the Bank Holiday Thursday in 2020. The reasons for the policy change included restrictions related to the pandemic and employee morale. .

This year, Target announced that the new policy is permanent and that retail competitors are expected to follow suit. For Academy Sports, however, taking a day off was already a long time in training.

“Each Thanksgiving, Academy continues its tradition of closing stores to give team members and customers time to have fun and create memories with family and friends,” said Sumrall.

Photojournalist Doug Hoke contributed to this reporting.

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Peggy P. Gilmore