Here's how retailers are changing their approach to Black Friday this year

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Remember Black Friday lines on Thanksgiving Day? Recall squeezing through the store doors, and the mad dash through the aisles? Then loading up on great deals?

Well, that was then and this is now -- the pandemic now.

This year will be a little more mellow, starting the day before Black Friday: Thanksgiving.

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Kristin McGrath is the editor of BlackFriday.com. "The biggest difference is that major retailers are not opening on Thanksgiving this year," she says.

McGrath says there will be as many deals online as in stores, so there is less of a reason to go out.

Karla Martin is with Deloitte consulting. She says, "I think this year we are seeing, at least in our survey, that Cyber Monday is going to surpass Black Friday. Black Friday is an event, right?"

Right; an event that may have less appeal during a pandemic.

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"With COVID, doing that six feet apart, the way they have to throttle you in and out of stores," Martin says, "is kind of a wet blanket on that whole event."

So a lot of this year's retailing efforts will swing away from events and towards online sales. Either way, gift card expert Shelley Hunter says shoppers are ready for a good time and shopping.

"People are just ready for the holidays," she says, "so they are out there looking for deals now and stores are responding."

Most stores aren't releasing much information about what to expect on Black Friday. An exception is Walmart. The retail giant is releasing information and Walmart is all in -- but in a much different way.

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"Outside of the store people are lining up, single-file, social distancing," McGrath says. "They will limit the number of people allowed in the store at one time. And what I find interesting is they said they were going to have items are in the sale available on sale on the right side of the aisle."

So the shopping day has gone from a mad dash to a more mellow "pass to the left, shop to the right."

Because of all this, Black Friday is now a season, more than a single day, so start shopping now and know sales prices will come and go. The deals will be there. The question is: "will the fun?"

"Gift Card Girlfriend" Shelly Hunter says, "People that normally would have gone out of town for the holidays know they are going to be at home, and so they are staying home and saying, 'How can we make this year special without going to visit the people or the places we usually go?'"

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Deloitte's Karla Martin says we will be decorating and buying ourselves gifts as we assess just how much we will spend this year.

"People will be buying Christmas gifts, but they are going to hold off a little later because of economic uncertainties. We're coming to a period of election season, winter COVID spike -- I think they are going to wait a little bit before they decide what they are going to spend."

BlackFriday.com editor McGrath says shopping online is different, but no less fun.

"I think it is just as exciting because things are still in limited supply, you have to refresh the site, you have to add stuff to your cart very quickly, you've got to know exactly what to buy."

Take a look at more stories and videos by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.

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