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Black Friday attracts smaller crowds this year

KAREN VIBERT-KENNEDY/Sun-Gazette Patinaz on West Fourth Street in Williamsport.

Caution tape strung barricade poles, forming a line outside Walmart. Signs dotted the inside of the Lycoming Mall, imploring shoppers to wear a mask and stay six feet apart from one another. Yet, as much as the commercial world prepared for Black Friday shopping, customers just did not roll out like they had in previous years.

“This is minimal,” said Joe Garcyznski, general manger, as he looked around a Muncy Target filled with more than one hundred shoppers at around 10 a.m. Friday. Most customers wore masks and socially distanced, however there was an atmosphere of hustle-and-bustle that permeated through the busy store as customers lifted toys and picked out clothes to buy.

Friday morning at 7 a.m., a line of 111 customers — at least, when Garcynski counted — amassed at the entrance to the Target. Garcyznski said he would normally expect 250 people to line up for Target’s doorbuster sales, however this year the store had no doorbuster. At Target, Black Friday started early; online sales began the night before, and in-person sales began the week leading up to the “shopping holiday.”

“Our priority is for Target to be the safest place to shop and to retain customer confidence,” Garczynski said.

Precautions taken to meet that priority included attempts to space out the volume of customers across a greater period of time, to try to keep the crowds less dense.

At around 7:30 a.m., Walmart was nowhere near as busy as it had been compared to previous years, according to a Black Friday traditionalist. Andrea Haines, from the Jersey Shore area, visited the Muncy Walmart with her mother, Louise Miller, for a quick in-and-out trip — with little resistance from other shoppers.

“Oh my gosh, there were no lines. It’s definitely a different year,” Miller said.

Haines explained she normally Black Friday shops with her daughters; however, both her daughters had just given birth, so she opted to take her mother instead to keep the tradition going.

“I like to get gifts. They are mostly for my grandchildren,” Haines said. “I like to online shop, but I like the satisfaction of walking out [with the gifts].”

Inside the Walmart, most customers complied with a speaker requesting they wear face masks. However, some did not as they walked around the store. Many customers hurriedly moved from one area of the store to the next, while others stood around and chatted with one another.

The Lycoming Mall did not start attracting customers en masse to its long hallways until around 9:30 a.m., when customers started congregating at American Eagle and Bath & Bodyworks. The former attracted a few customers at a time, while many customers, including Renee and Rachel Hite from Montgomery, lined up outside to have a look at the latter’s deals.

The Hites always go Black Friday shopping together. They go out for the good deals and Christmas gifts. After Bath and Body Works, the two planned to visit Target, Kohls and Ulta.

“Then, we go home and make cookies,” Renee added with a smile. “It’s a tradition.”

Broc Davis and Caitlin Ward, of Washingtonville, both took a gander around the mall in search of clothing and shoes for their 18-month-old child. Davis had only gone Black Friday shopping once before, and said he was leaving most of the direction to Ward.

“We’re trying all of them,” Ward said.

Will Rosemurgy, 18, a long-time PlayStation fan, was first in-line to pick up his Playstation 5 on Black Friday. Sony’s supply of the new console gaming system, which released Nov. 12, has failed to keep up with the pressured demand from eager quarantined gamers. The Montoursville Game Stop only stocked two PlayStation 5 consoles — and four Xbox Series X consoles — for Black Friday customers to pick up. Rosemurgy explained he had made several attempts to purchase the new PlayStation online before giving up and coming in-person.

“People online had bots — any time they were stocked, that same minute they went out of stock,” Rosemurgy said. “It’s pretty bad.”

So bad that Rosemurgy arrived at GameStop for its Black Friday sale Thanksgiving Day — at noon. He had to — the next person in line for the PlayStation 5, 30-year-old Brandon Shafer, came on his heels at 1 p.m. Shafer prefers the PlayStation because he likes the console’s exclusive games, and he had the same issue as Rosemurgy when procuring the reclusive console.

“You can’t get them online,” Shafer said.

Rosemurgy looked forward to playing “Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla” by Ubisoft and “Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War” by Activision, while Shafer planned on cracking open the “Demon’s Souls” remake by Sony Interactive Entertainment when he returned home.

However, the PlayStation is not the only item customers are clawing at on Black Friday. Garczynski explained he saw a lot of people picking up toilet paper and paper towels at Target as they finished up their shopping. He said they are probably concerned about the rising COVID-19 cases in Lycoming County,

“People are worried about shortages,” Garczynski said. “They are just getting everything at one stop.”

Since Monday, Lycoming County’s coronavirus cases have increased by 19.4 percent to 1982 cases in the county, up by 322 cases from Monday’s reported 1660 cases, according to data provided by the state Department of Health. It recommends Pennsylvanians wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and use hand sanitizer, cover coughs and sneezes with elbows and not hands, frequently clean surfaces, stay home especially when unwell and wear masks when inside or when it is difficult to maintain social distancing.

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