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Less congested Black Friday morning at area retailers

Ryan Zunner

The COVID-19 pandemic has kept crowds at shopping centers a bit smaller on Black Friday this year. Typically the largest in-person shopping day of the year, large crowds and long lines were few and far between at retailers like Best Buy in Amherst, Cabela’s, and the Walden Galleria Mall.

Several stores did a slow opening to decrease overcrowding, allowing customers in by small groups at a time. Best Buy also had employees at the front doors to assist customers with getting their products right away, in an effort to decrease the amount of time spent in store.

Black Friday serves as a tradition for many families, including Richard and Sally Brewer of Tonawanda. Richard was committed to keep their streak going, but acknowledged their shopping haul at the Galleria will have to be a bit different this year due to the virus.

“I’m not really hesitant, but I’m cautious for sure,” he said outside the Dick’s Sporting Goods entrance. “We’re going to make it kind of quick, not going to spend a lot of time [in-store]. We’re just going to check it out, get some ideas, go home, and then re-plan again.”

Some shoppers on the other hand made more of a spontaneous decision to get out for early Black Friday shopping, like Alexander Hejna of Lancaster, who went out looking for good deals with a couple of friends.

“Last night at about 11 o’clock, we’re like ‘hey, let’s go shopping,’ so we’re going to try and get some cool stuff,” said Hejna.

Before heading to the Macy’s at the Galleria Mall, Hejna said he was at the Outlet Mall in Niagara Falls, and was surprised to see it calm there as well.

“The Outlet wasn’t that bad right as we got there,” he said. “There wasn’t that many people, I was surprised, I figured there be way more.”

Stone Garlow of the Seneca Nation headed out to Cabela’s and the Galleria Mall. His hope was to save some money on picking up holiday gifts for his 11 siblings. Having a growing family of his own now though, COVID-19 did weigh in the back of his mind before heading out.

“I ask myself, ‘Is this really worth it?’ At any point during the day I might come into contact with someone who is asymptomatic,” said Garlow. “I do worry about it, but at the same time I don’t let things really control my life. I take all the special care, I wear a mask, I hand sanitize, and I try to do what I can to be safe.”

The hot ticket item for this year’s holiday season by far is the newest next-generation gaming console offerings from Sony and Microsoft, the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X, respectively. Even before doors opened at the Amherst Best Buy at 5:00 AM, a manager came out to tell the crowd if they were waiting in the cold to get their hands on a new console, they’re out of luck.

“There are no next-gen gaming systems in the store, they are all pre-ordered. So if you’re waiting in line for a PlayStation 5 or the new Xbox, we do not have any and there’s no point to wait,” he told customers as he walked down the line outside. “You can’t order them, they will be dropping online randomly and that’s the only way you can purchase them. We will not have inventory of next-gen gaming systems until February of next year.”

Just two hours later, a crowd of several dozen gathered outside the gates of the GameStop inside the Galleria Mall, hoping the video gaming retailer might have some in stock. But, unless you were part of the lucky few who got there early enough for a ticket, you’re walking out empty-handed.

Ryan Zunner joined WBFO in the summer of 2018 as an intern, before working his way up to reporter the following summer.
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