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Masked And Undeterred, Shoppers Line Up For Black Friday Sales


Stores are counting on record-setting holiday sales this year, even as corona cases surge. NPR's Alina Selyukh ventured out on Black Friday to a shopping mall in Maryland just outside of Washington, D.C., and found plenty of shoppers undeterred by the risk of infection.

ALINA SELYUKH, BYLINE: Black Friday is always a special day for Salem Eshete (ph).

SALEM ESHETE: Usually, I'm there by midnight, like, actually waiting in front of the store for them to open.

SELYUKH: This year, there was no camping out. But by the afternoon, she was at the mall anyway with her best friend, Nunyat Tefera (ph) - two college students ready to buy some real clothes after months of sweatpants.

Where are you guys going to go? You know?

NUNYAT TEFERA: Victoria's Secret, definitely. TJ Maxx, Ross - like, where all the deals are, basically.

SELYUKH: Around them, the mall parking lot bustled - cars waiting to pick up online orders, children tugging on parents' hands, people popping into a shopping center buzzing with activity.


SELYUKH: Lines queued in front of GameStop for electronics, even the ice cream shop for treats. It almost seemed normal. But then there's Santa, perched behind a plexiglass shield, posing with pets instead of children.

All shoppers I interviewed said they're ready to brave this world with masks on. Here are Eshete and Tefera.

ESHETE: As long as you're safe, I don't think you can let this virus take over your life for that much longer.

SELYUKH: And you feel safe enough to be out shopping?

ESHETE: Yeah, I do. I personally feel safe enough to do that.

TEFERA: Somewhat. I wouldn't say I'm, like - I feel completely safe, honestly, anywhere that I go. But I'm treading lightly.

SELYUKH: Health authorities do not recommend spending time in crowded stores, but the retailers have worked hard to convince people it's safe to shop, adding mask and distancing reminders, closing fitting rooms and dotting the floors with hand sanitizer stations.

HAYWARD EVANS: I'm not going to live in fear, but I'm not going to be stupid, either. I go in, I get what I want, and I'm gone.

SELYUKH: Hayward Evans (ph), a special ed teacher, normally shops for holiday gifts on Black Friday. But this time, he ducked into a Macy's for a winter suit.

EVANS: Charcoal gray - it was a really nice suit.

SELYUKH: You got a suit in a year when you're not going many places.

EVANS: Well, what are you going to do with the prices like that? I bought a suit for $99 that was almost $400. Come on, now. I'm not walking past that (laughter).

SELYUKH: Behind him, a couple ran in for jackets they would donate to a church fundraiser. Someone even came by to pierce their toddler's ears. As one shopper put it, what's another weird day in a really weird year?

Alina Selyukh, NPR News, Hyattsville, Md.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Alina Selyukh is a business correspondent at NPR, where she follows the path of the retail and tech industries, tracking how America's biggest companies are influencing the way we spend our time, money, and energy.