Editorial: Striking a happy Black Friday medium

Last Updated on Thursday, 25 November, 2021 at 1:24 pm by Andre Camilleri

These days, you don’t have to get up at the crack of dawn and fuel yourself with coffee to get out and snap up the best Black Friday offers. Now local retailers offer Black Friday prices, discounts and deals weeks earlier on their websites more than ever before. And what’s more, stores are opening their doors later too. Gone are the days of shopping at 1 am. for that special price. If it’s one clear positive from the pandemic, it’s a fact local retailers have upped the ante with their online presence.

Last year President Paul Abela of the Malta Chamber of SMEs said the Chamber had met with the Superintendent of Public Health Prof. Charmaine Gauci, to discuss Covid-19 protocols to be implemented in the stores. He said that life must go on despite the pandemic, which is why it was decided to carry on with Black Friday and even make it on a larger scale to help businesses. The same sentiments can be the same for this year. The Chamber’s Chief Executive Abigail Agius Mamo mentioned how this activity, over the years, has become the kick-starter of the holiday season as people start thinking about gifts. This year will be spread over more days, instead of just one day, as a safety measure due to the Covid-19 pandemic and as a way to boost sales. With large numbers of people expected to visit shops, we must emphasize following the Covid-19 protocols. However, what we must stress in lieu of ongoing increasing cases is enforcement across the upcoming weekend. We must ensure this shopping bonanza does not catalyze a cluster of cases, or worst still, serve as another wave altogether. At the same time, we ought to respect the choices of those who do wish to visit on foot at our prime shopping destinations.

Last year at this time, Covid-19 cases were rising as people spent more time indoors. There was no vaccine avilable yet, and we were still treading with caution. As a result, many shoppers opted to avoid Black Friday crowds and find deals online, which many stores also encouraged. Those who did shop in stores locally found that physical distancing was not difficult at all.  This year it is different. Fashion giants agree that the balance between in-store and online shopping will be more even this year after lockdowns and restrictions in the run-up to Christmas 2020 prompted consumers to go online.

We know the images of Black Friday shopping frenzies of the past indeed struck fear in the minds of retailers, employees and public health officials and continue to do so. We all can picture the scene very well: A crush of shoppers barely a breath apart, grabbing at the same unbelievable deal, whether gaming console, TV, toy or toaster. Together we must ensure we don’t drop our guard here and we must let common sense prevail as cases increase daily in Malta. Just when retailers and consumers were starting to feel optimistic about the peak trading season, a rise in Covid-19 cases has forced many to err on the side of caution and avoid pinning their hopes on a bumper Christmas. However, with Black Friday starting much earlier than usual and shoppers eager to spend early, things could be much, much worse, after all- we are almost two years into this now.

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