Are Florida Retailers Ready For Black Friday In-Store, Online Shoppers This Year? – The Ledger

LAKELAND – Despite online shopping rising in popularity, retailers are gearing up for in-store Black Friday shoppers by beefing up staff and adding merchandise. 

An increase of consumers is expected, as 64% of shoppers plan to take advantage of in-store Black Friday deals, a 13% increase over last year, according to the Florida Retail Federation. 

“Our merchants are well-prepared,” Lakeland Square Mall Associate General Manager Ryan Conlon said. “While most sell online as they are large companies, we also have many small local businesses that deal exclusively from their respective stores.” 

The mall will operate from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Black Friday and is decorated for the holiday season. Santa will also be on hand meeting with shoppers of all ages.  

The mall is also hosting multiple seasonal tenants to add variety to the lineup of year-round merchants, Conlon said. They will offer a range of products from holiday decorations to sports memorabilia.  

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Of all holiday shopping days, Black Friday is poised to have the largest turnout with 108 million shoppers, the Federation said.  

“Florida retailers are ready to help families have a stress-free holiday season,” Florida Retail Federation president and CEO, Scott Shalley said in an email.  

“Whether you are hunting down the perfect ‘Secret Santa’ gift, browsing unique ornaments, hosting a traditional family holiday dinner, or planning other festivities, Florida retailers are working hard to ensure this holiday season is merry and bright,” Shalley said.  

Florida’s retail industry has been proactive this holiday season, purchasing extra inventory and has hired additional seasonal workers to the tune of 38%. In some cases, businesses began hiring in October to accommodate early holiday shopping.  

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Businesses also promised enhancements to online shopping with the addition of new features to help with hassle-free store pickup and home delivery. 

In time for the shopping season, Target has added “Shopping Partner,” “Backup Items” and “Forgot Something” as new functions for pickups and deliveries.  

A Shopping Partner allows shoppers to send someone else to a store to pick up items. Backup items mean shoppers can go home with a second choice item if their first choice is unavailable. The Forgot Something allows online order makers to add additional items to their virtual basket but pick up the full order at one time .

Across the company’s locations, Target has added 18,000 drive-up parking spots and has tripled the staff for store fulfillment of orders. 

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The retailer also said that same-day delivery with Shipt has been expanded and many home deliveries can be completed within one hour.  

“We began offering holiday deals in October for those looking to shop early and we’re continuing to deliver big savings all season long, including Black Friday week,” said Christina Hennington, executive vice president and chief growth officer for Target.  

“Whether shopping for deals or last-minute Thanksgiving needs, our team is ready to deliver incredible savings,” she added. “And by making even more of our Black Friday deals available via our same-day services, we’re making it easier than ever for guests to shop everything on their terms.” 

Target said it will be closed on Thanksgiving Day, with most stores reopening at 7 a.m. local time on Black Friday. Deals on holiday shopping items run from Thanksgiving Day to Sunday.  

Walmart also has enhanced its online shopping options. 

“Customers can pick up their Black Friday purchases while grabbing their weekly groceries, making crossing off wish lists a breeze,” said Charles Crowson, director of corporate communications in an email.  

“And, to make it easier than ever for customers to get what they need when they need it – from turkey and trimmings to Black Friday deals and top-rated toys to put under the tree – and even the tree itself, Walmart is 1) extending store delivery hours, 2) adding additional delivery windows for customers and 3) adding more items to the list of what can be delivered from your local store.” 

In addition, hiring at Walmart is ongoing as the retailer looks to bring on 150,000 new U.S. store associates to serve customers seasonally and beyond. The store is also looking to add20,000 permanent supply chain positions to support its growing network. 

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Officials with Instacart, the e-commerce partner for Publix Super Market, said questions about current supply chain issues are a concern for consumers.

“As we near the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, supply chain disruptions are already weighing heavily on consumers’ minds with nearly half of Americans who plan to host or cook for the holiday admitting that they’re concerned about getting what they need,” said Laurentia Romaniuk, Instacart’s Trends Expert. “Unlike the shortages we saw in the early days of the pandemic, the availability issues we’re seeing today are broader and even more unpredictable — spanning many categories and shifting week to week.”

In 2020, online shopping rose to $9 billion during Black Friday, up 21.6% year over year, based on data from Adobe Analytics. But the biggest web buying spree each year is on Cyber Monday.

With Black Friday sales starting earlier this year and most consumers planning to shop online rather than in-store, WalletHub.com has released its report on 2021’s Best Places to Shop on Black Friday. The personal-finance website broke down the best discounts per product categories such as appliances, jewelry and toys in its report.  

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The highest discounts at 21 of the biggest retailers surveyed included Macy’s at 58.51% and JCPenny at 57.63% with Belk coming in third at 56.63%. 

Wallet Hub also found, around 11% of items at major retailers will be more expensive on Black Friday than current Amazon.com prices. Consumer packaged goods will offer the most value on Black Friday 2021 relative to their current prices, while computers and phones are expected to have the least rewarding deals.

For that special someone who has everything, WalletHub.com also found Starbucks, Target, and Nike top the list of 2021’s Best Gift Cards.

Paul Nutcher covers business and industry for The Ledger. He can be reached at pnutcher@gannett.com.