The Charger Blog

Economics Professors Discuss Black Friday, Holiday Shopping in the Era of COVID-19

Faculty members in the University’s Pompea College of Business predict a Black Friday that will look very different – with fewer shoppers, seasonal workers, and doorbusters.

November 23, 2020

By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications

Brian Marks, J.D., Ph.D.
Brian Marks, J.D., Ph.D., is a senior lecturer in the University’s Pompea College of Business and executive director of the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program.

Brian Marks, J.D., Ph.D., has been monitoring the devastating impact the coronavirus global pandemic has had on the economy. The pandemic, he says, will continue to impact the economy through the holiday shopping season – including Black Friday, which is typically one of the busiest shopping days of the year.

As Dr. Marks recently told Hearst Connecticut Media, Black Friday has traditionally been about in-store sales, whereas the following Monday, known as Cyber Monday, focuses on online shopping. He anticipates a 30 percent decline in in-store shopping this year, as well as fewer of the big bargains that typically draw shoppers in.

“Given the likelihood that fewer people are going to shop, retailers are going to say, ‘we don’t need as many people working in the store,’” said Dr. Marks, a senior lecturer in the University’s Pompea College of Business and executive director of the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program. “If retailers are reluctant to buy goods because they fear they will be unable to sell them, they are less likely to offer deep discounts.”

Image of Patrick Gourley, Ph.D.
Patrick Gourley, Ph.D.

In addition to the expected lower numbers of shoppers, those who do venture out may also spend less. Dr. Marks says it isn’t just the fear of the virus that could be keeping people at home this holiday season.

“There is the uncertainty over a relief package and the unemployment situation,” he said. “Some people are going to be less generous. In times of uncertainty, people are less likely to spend.”

The virus means the holiday shopping season will likely look different this year in many ways. While stores are expected to hire fewer seasonal employees, Patrick Gourley, Ph.D., recently said in an interview with NBC Connecticut that he predicts the expected increase in online shopping will create seasonal jobs elsewhere. Specifically, he foresees warehouses, such as those owned by the U.S. Postal Service or Amazon, continuing to hire.

“We’re definitely going to see a major increase in people ordering packages,” said Dr. Gourley, an assistant professor of economics. “It’s going to change the supply of workers as well as the demand for shopping.”

The number of such warehouses in the state has continued to increase. Amazon recently opened a new delivery station in Danbury, Conn., promising to fill more than 100 jobs. Dr. Marks expects the increase in online shopping to continue – even well after stores and businesses open back up.

“In the longer term, this station is yet another signal of how Amazon is transforming the landscape that has been, that is now accelerated by, this public health crisis and its economic-induced prices,” said Dr. Marks to newstimes. “There will be a level of inertia that once things open up, people will still feel comfortable purchasing more and more goods online. Amazon is positioning itself for that.”