With mask requirements and long lines, Black Friday shopping may lose ground to online retail

WALNUT CREEK, Calif. (KGO) -- The Bay Area going into the purple tier was a disappointment to retailers hoping to lure in holiday shoppers at their busiest time of year.

But nice weather could make up for it.

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It was a merry masked-up day to kick off holiday shopping, but there were some who chose to not wear a mask while walking around downtown Walnut Creek:


Lines to get inside some popular stores with reduced capacity, in some cases, meant a 40-minute wait.

But The National Retail Federation, on their website, predicts online sales will be capturing 20% - 30% of the holiday market this season, which is more than last year.

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There are no corporate parties, and reduced inventory and fewer employees in many stores according to Sanjit Sengupta, a San Francisco State University marketing professor, who said, "The projections are because consumer demand has been suppressed so far, starting with today which is Black Friday, and the start of holiday shopping season. There is some kind of pent-up demand, people want to give gifts to family and friends to uplift their spirits in a very challenging year."

In Walnut Creek's downtown, there is a 20% vacancy rate right now, but property owners say they are getting inquiries about renting the vacant sites. according to Kathy Hemmenway with the Walnut Creek Downtown Business Association.

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"What's missing is the ice rink," she said. "We were unable to host the ice rink this year for the first time in 15 years. Broadway Plaza had to cancel their holiday of lights parade."

In the end, what has helped out retail this weekend is magnificent weather.

Merchants said they feel guilty knowing there's a drought, but they are hoping sustained mild temperatures and lack of rain will help their bottom line in December.

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