Nejuly Fher got an early start on Black Friday shopping on a day when typical crowds were not in seen in stores.

The throngs of people typically waiting to rush into stores for traditional Black Friday doorbuster sales in the Golden Isles the day after Thanksgiving were conspicuously absent Friday.

Just another way the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has upended 2020.

And it wasn’t just in the Golden Isles. Stores across the nation saw smaller and fewer crowds, though often by design. Many chain stores began offering Black Friday sales days ago. Other stores plan to phase in sale items as a way to enable customers to social distance while shopping for the sale items they seek.

That doesn’t mean people in the Golden Isles aren’t getting an early start on Christmas shopping.

Nejuly Fher stopped at Walmart in Brunswick to take advantage of the 50 percent off sale on bicycles and a large nutcracker, also on sale.

Fher said she knew exactly what she wanted and had a surprisingly easy shopping experience, especially when compared to the chaos of past Black Fridays. It took only about 15 minutes to complete her list.

“I got everything I came for,” she said. “It’s not crowded at all. They made it very easy to locate the things I was looking for.”

Fher said she was not disappointed stores were closed for Thanksgiving.

“I was happy the employees could spend Thanksgiving with their families,” she said. “Nothing was open (Thursday).”

Other large retailers in the Golden Isles also experienced slower than normal business on Black Friday. The parking lot at Glynn Place Mall was mostly empty, and it appeared like a typical business day inside Target.

Some businesses prepared for and received good turnouts.

Ward Sweat, co-owner of Sweat’s Furniture on Community Road, said he expects a strong holiday shopping season.

“Traditionally, a furniture store doesn’t have a line of people rushing in, but our Black Friday sales have been excellent,” he said. “Business continues to be strong.”

Sweat said sales at his store increase as Christmas gets closer. His busiest period during the holiday shopping season is typically from mid December into the new year.

Sweat said holiday shoppers fortunate enough to get a Christmas bonus spend some of it by purchasing a quality piece of furniture. Many also have time enough off of their jobs to shop and enjoy their purchase before the holidays end.

“Recliners and sofas are good sellers,” he said.

Like many business owners, Sweat said his business follows marketing trends and promotes his store’s wide selection of furniture and other merchandise.

“We’ve seen an enormous spike in digital research,” he said. “You need to be plugged in to what drives the market.”

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