The French government asked Amazon to stop advertising "Black Friday" deals, telling the company that it was unfair to small businesses for the online giant to be promoting online sales when stores around the country were being required to shut down due to a COVID-19 lockdown.  France's Junior Economy Minister Agnes Pannier-Runchaer said these types of sales were “not at all appropriate at a time when 200,000 businesses will have to shut their doors.” 

Black Friday is one of the most important shopping days of the year for retailers and it's an event that many consumers look forward to all year.  But, what should a shopping day -- based on the idea of consumers crowding into stores to get some of the best deals of the year -- look like during a pandemic?  In recently-issued guidance, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised consumers to avoid shopping in crowded stores on Black Friday, and to shop online instead.  The CDC said, "Staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others."  

So, how should retailers plan for this year's Black Friday?  Here are some things to consider.  

  • Check local laws, to make sure you're complying with state and local requirements about when and how you can open -- and what procedures must be followed. 
  • While you undoubtedly already have your own procedures in place for consumers and staff to follow during normal shopping days (about mask wearing, social distancing, and regular cleaning, for example), consider whether additional measures are needed for what could be a much higher traffic day.  For example, do you have clear signage which explains your Black Friday procedures, an appropriate place for consumers to line up outside the store, sufficient sales and security staff to manage the additional crowds, additional cleaning staff to handle the additional sanitizing that may be needed, and extra masks for people who forget to bring one?
  • If you will have special Black Friday procedures in place for in person shopping, make sure to let consumers know about them in advance when you're promoting your Black Friday sales, so that there is no confusion about what is expected.  
  •  Consider whether to offer your Black Friday deals online as well, so that people don't have to come in store at all to take advantage of them.  
  • Consider offering special online-only deals, to encourage online, as opposed to in-store, shopping. 
  • Consider also making Black Friday more than a one-day event, so that consumers can take advantage of the deals during a longer period of time.  
  • When possible, consider moving some merchandise outside, so that consumers can shop in a safer outdoor environment.  
  • Consider offering expanded or more generous return policies, to encourage consumers shop more quickly and leave the store, knowing that they can return purchases if they change their mind later on. 
  • Think carefully about the tone of your Black Friday advertising, in light of pandemic-related safety concerns.  Will encouraging people to get to the store early for the best deals come across as inappropriate or insensitive?  Or, if you're offering online deals and extended Black Friday shopping days, can your advertising strike a good balance between promoting the sales and safety?

Finally, remember that whatever approach you choose to take for Black Friday -- whether it's closing entirely, moving your sales to online, offering expanded Black Friday opportunities, or just business as usual -- will undoubtedly say something about your brand.  This is the time to make sure that, whatever that is, it's the message that you want to communicate.