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(CBS Detroit) — COVID-19 will have a drastic effect on Black Friday this year, much as it has on everything else. Some of those effects can already be seen in the expanded holiday shopping season, which has been going on since mid-October. Other effects will become more evident over the long Thanksgiving weekend.

Once upon a time, Black Friday, the Friday after Thanksgiving, marked the beginning of the holiday shopping season. The name is derived from the day retailers see their balance sheets turn from red to black. According to Jie Zhang, Professor of Marketing and Retail Management at the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland, “the legend was that retailers work their heads off for much of the year, and it’s only the beginning of the holiday shopping season, that is, the Friday after Thanksgiving, that they turn black. So they turn red to black, meaning that this is first day they’re going to start to making profits. Obviously, it’s by no means precise.”

The holiday shopping season has been growing longer for awhile. In recent years, the deals reserved for Black Friday and beyond have been showing up earlier in November. And this year, holiday shopping seemed to be in full swing before Halloween. We can thank Amazon for that.

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“Amazon essentially kicked off the holiday shopping season with their Prime Day, moved to October 13 and 14th,” says Zhang. “And that, essentially, is like an unofficial kickoff of this year’s holiday shopping season. Not only Amazon, but several major retailers offered their own deals on exactly the same day or around the same time. And shortly after, many other retailers followed suit. So they started to offer holiday deals or, as they call them, Black Friday deals, or Black Friday-like deals, even before Halloween.”

The hard push to expand the holiday shopping season makes a lot of sense. Prime Day previously helped kick off the back-to-school shopping season in late July. But there was a lot of uncertainty then about what form schooling would take. Would kids actually return to school? The school year so far has been a mix of in-school and remote learning, with more and more kids going fully remote as the pandemic continues.

Lately, COVID case numbers have been breaking records seemingly daily. Much of the country remains largely homebound, or at least minimizes their exposure to the outside world as much as possible. That means less shopping in stores and more shopping online. This is another long-term trend — retail moving from in-store to online — that COVID has accelerated. But how will it play out on the biggest shopping day of the year?

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For many, the experience of Black Friday shopping is a high point of the holiday season. “Many consumers have a family tradition of going out shopping on Black Friday, for the fun, for the excitement and for the social experience,” says Zhang. “But, with a pandemic surging in the country and around the world, and the concern for safety and health remain heightened in consumers’ minds, many of those consumers will scale back and will choose to stay at home, or do online shopping instead of going to stores. Certainly that’s one thing that will make this coming Friday very different from what we have seen in the past.”

“Store-based retailers or retailers with a primary focus in the brick-and-mortar operations are not just throwing the towel and giving up the fight,” Zhang continues. “They’re doing all that they can to try to at least attract some shoppers to the store.”

But what physical stores can do to attract customers is severely limited by the ongoing COVID crisis. “They are significantly scaling back,” says Zhang. “For example, in shopping malls, we know that every year a lot of shopping malls host meeting Santa, taking pictures with Santa, as a way to draw families into the shopping mall. And, of course, that traffic will spill into their retail tenants. And this year, some shopping malls have decided to cancel it. Others are offering virtual events, like a virtual meeting with Santa.”

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A virtual meeting, by definition, isn’t in-person, and doesn’t amount to foot traffic in stores. “Nonetheless, they’re still doing some of that, combined with increased offering of order online and pickup in store or curbside pickup,” Zhang continues. “And this is one way to, first of all to meet the surging online demand. And secondly, to try to divert some of the traffic into the store, even if just briefly.”

For those shoppers that do show up, they’ll probably find a somewhat more muted experience than they’re used to. According to Zhang, “store retailers would have to enhance their safety and sanitation measures, crowd control, making sure that employees and customers maintain good distance… essentially the common-sense measures that we have been seeing from the beginning of the pandemic. And I think the public has become more educated and aware of the need — and the business as well — the need to practice good safety measures.”

This all assumes that stores and malls are allowed to remain open in the face of spiking numbers of COVID cases. On Tuesday, the country saw 1,707 deaths, the highest total in six months. The national death total has surpassed 250,000, and most states have seen cases rise this week. Parts of the country could be headed toward another lockdown situation, which would close non-essential stores, like those where people do their holiday shopping.

“At the beginning of the pandemic, shopping malls were among the first type of facilities to be shut down and have been kept shut down for the longest time,” Zhang points out. “So we don’t know how that aspect will develop and whether some shopping malls won’t even be able to stay open. That, obviously, will impact all the stores located in shopping malls.”

While Black Friday this year, if it happens, won’t carry the spirit of the season as it has in past years, the experience isn’t gone forever. A widely administered vaccine would, in theory, end the pandemic. If that happens in time for the next holiday shopping season, Black Friday could make a comeback.

“Suppose the pandemic is over, vaccines are widely available, people are not concerned about safety and health,” Zhang speculates. “I think Black Friday-type of event, in-store events will resume, because, after all, there are some big social components to shopping. And many people just really enjoy the social experience involved with shopping, especially on special occasions like Black Friday. As I said, many shoppers actually have that family tradition, not necessarily to grab the best deals, but just that rush, that excitement and to enjoy that together with their loved ones.”

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Tags: black friday covid 19 holiday shopping the holiday shopping season the holiday shopping season the beginning of the shopping malls the pandemic black friday the country

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‘Sistine Chapel Of The Ancients’ Dating Back 12,500 Years Discovered In The Amazon Rainforest

A team of British-Colombian archeologists unearthed a collection of prehistoric rock art in the Amazon rainforest that is estimated to date back 12,500 years, numerous sources reported.

The discovery of the tens of thousands of paintings of animals and humans was made last year, but was kept secret until Sunday as it was filmed for a video series, the Guardian reported. The paintings were called the “Sistine Chapel of the ancients” and are on a cliff that is nearly eight miles in length in Colombia.

Thousands Of Ancient Rock Art Paintings Including Ice Age Giants Discovered In Remote Amazon

— IFLScience (@IFLScience) November 30, 2020

The site is in a remote part of the country that required a two-hour journey on foot from after a two hour drive from San José del Guaviare. The area also has numerous deadly snakes, making the trek especially dangerous. (RELATED: Archeologists In Spain Discover Over 400 Tombs In Ancient Burial Site)

Among the paintings of animals are depictions of the mastodon, an extinct ice age animal that hasn’t lived in South America for at least 12,000 years, leading experts to believe the paintings are up to 12,500 years old.

“We started seeing animals that are now extinct,” José Iriarte, the leader of the team of archaeologists said, according to the Guardian. “The pictures are so natural and so well made that we have few doubts that you’re looking at a horse, for example.” 

Iriarte said the horse was an ice age creature, and was so detailed that even the hair drawn on it was visible. Other animals include fish, turtles, lizards and birds. Humans were depicted dancing and holding hands. 

He noted that there were images of large animals surrounded by small men with their arms raised, in a way that could suggest worship. He added that for Amazonian people, non-humans have souls and “communicate and engage with people” through the different rituals depicted in the art.

The team will return to search for more paintings once the pandemic is no longer an obstacle, according to the Guardian. 

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