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Houstonians brace for a new Black Friday as the pandemic persists

“I did go yesterday," said Shelley Blevins, "and just could not get comfortable with the crowds. Just too many people." Blevins is opting, instead, to shop online.

HOUSTON — This year, those Black Friday deals are happening right now. No need to fight the crowds or pray for parking. The pandemic is changing the way we shop this holiday season. The Blevins family has Uptown all to themselves because store after store is closed on Thanksgiving Day.

“It gives you a sense of peace and hope,” said Shelley Blevins of the store closures.

She says it's a sign that people are taking the pandemic seriously.

The CDC lists holiday shopping as one the riskiest things you can do right now.

“I did go yesterday and did a little bit, and just could not get comfortable with the crowds,” said Blevins. “Just too many people. So we bailed and we’re doing a lot of online stuff.”

Keep checking the websites of your favorite stores. Best Buy is rolling out new deals every week. Amazon is dropping gadget prices back down to prime day deals. And Walmart began discounting popular gifts earlier this month, because for the first time in 30 years, Walmart is closed on Thanksgiving. The retailer wanted to give employees a well-deserved break during this pandemic. But don’t worry. Doors open at 5 a.m. on Friday.

If you just have to get out and shop on Black Friday, Old Navy opens at midnight. Masks are required and hand sanitizing stations will be positioned throughout the store. But you can also order online and pick up, curbside.

“I think curbside may become the way of the future, because it is fantastic to be able to order something from a major department store, and they will bring it out to you?! It’s a winner,” Blevins said.

A new survey by the NPD Group finds consumers plan to spend an average of $691 on gifts. That’s 7% less than last year. With a bulk of consumers choosing to shop online. The Galleria opens at 6 a.m. Friday. Target will open an hour later at 7 a.m.

“I think people will get out and shop because there’s only so much you can do online,” said Blevins.

We’ll have to wait, just a little longer, and see.