WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Millions of Americans typically hit the stores each year on Black Friday, but this year it won’t be the same.
“It’s a lot less crowded,” said shopper Ceilya Ollangg. She goes to the Independence Mall for Black Friday shopping with her family every year.
Smaller crowds are just one of the things you’ll notice at the mall this holiday season.
“We have a lot of touch list experiences and sanitizing stations,” said Helen Lewis, the General Manager for the mall. “The mall is cleaned on a regular basis and way more often. We have hospital air quality; we’ve installed air filters that are really top quality. So we aim to provide a good environment for shoppers and our workers because obviously, their health is paramount to us.”
The food court is still open. Tables are spread out and guests are asked to keep their masks on until they sit down to eat.
Like Ollangg, many shoppers said they weren’t sure if they’d go to the mall this Black Friday, but decided they didn’t want to give up the tradition.
“[The mall] is keeping it clean and safe and socially distant,” said Megan Geer. “I feel comfortable with it. I definitely think it’s worth coming out for.”
“If you like the tradition...just come out and do it,” said Faith Creech.
Lewis said she knew it would be a different Black Friday shopping experience this year.
“The goal is to spread out the shoppers during the day so they’re not in long lines so we can accommodate the social distancing that we need to do,” said Lewis.
Under Gov. Cooper’s latest executive order, the mask mandate is stronger which means large retail stores have to get stricter when it comes to wearing masks and occupancy limits. Lewis said each store controls their occupancy and everyone is asked to wear a mask.
Lewis understands coming into the mall isn’t something everyone wants to do, that’s why they expanded their curbside pickup options. This allows shoppers to get what they need from the mall without ever stepping foot inside.
They also launched a new program called Spot Holder. It’s an app that allows guests to reserve a time in a store so they don’t have to wait in lines and they can get in and out in a timely manner.
The mall will still allow in-person, and now virtual, Santa visits for the kids. You can learn more about that here.