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What you can expect in Wilmington on Black Friday

Noah Johnson   | Wilmington StarNews

Remember the long lines that characterized Black Friday of past years, before COVID-19? Remember the crowds, the mask-less faces?

Health officials recommend that some aspects of Black Friday remain memories only this year as COVID-19 cases increase across the state.

Come Black Friday, many businesses are following state guidance by mandating face masks, placing stickers in and outside of stores to encourage social distancing and limiting the number of customers inside. 

Paige Coniglio, specialty leasing manager and marketing director at Mayfaire, said the shopping center's retailers have been planning their holiday promotions earlier this year to lesson the potential for long lines.

"As a result, consumers will begin their shopping earlier this year to beat large crowds and ensure the products they want are available," Coniglio said. "For the same reasons, we expect there to be fewer lines and last-minute shoppers than in typical years."

National stores are taking a similar approach. Best Buy is offering Black Friday deals starting on Nov. 22 in stores and online, Walmart is offering deals from Nov. 25 until Nov. 27, and Target has deals until the end of November. 

Many of Mayfaire's retailers and restaurants are extending their hours, so shoppers can take advantage of early morning and evening hours.

When it comes to safety measures, Mayfaire customers can expect additional check out areas, hand sanitizing stations, mask mandates, curbside service and social distancing, Coniglio added. 

"As we prepare for the upcoming holiday season, the health and safety of our customers and employees remains a top priority," she said. 

When customers take a step into the Meadowlark Shop in Wilmington, they will be met by signage asking them to social distance and wear a mask, Owner Kendall Hurt said. They will also be given hand sanitizer. She frequently sanitizes her shop and keeps bottles of sanitizer in the dressing rooms. 

"It makes me feel safe and it sends a good message to my customers that they're in a good, safe environment," she said. 

To limit the amount of people in the shop and to keep lines down, a staff member will be available to ring up customers outside. 

And as part of a partnership with a neighboring shop, Hurt offered discounted sales from Nov. 12 to Nov. 14  "to encourage people not all to come at once." 

Downtown Wilmington's shoppers can expect to come across hand sanitizer stations in heavy traffic areas throughout downtown on Black Friday, said Dane Scalise, chairman of Wilmington Downtown Inc.

Businesses like Modern Legend, Heart of Carolina, Art in Bloom, and City Gipsy Boutique are offering virtual shopping options, and curbside pickup.

Old Books on Front street will have someone at it's front door, limiting the number of people in the store to eight, sanitizing hands and making sure masks are on. 

While downtown retailers and restaurants are bolstering up safety measures, similar to Mayfaire, from mask mandates, to frequent sanitizing, many businesses have built new and better websites as a result of COVID-19.

That's why Wilmington Downtown Inc. has launched a holiday gift guide in support of it's downtown businesses and will be posting regularly to Facebook to help its local shops and restaurants feature their favorite gifts and specials.

More: Health official: Wilmington area at a 'crucial time' in handling COVID-19 pandemic

More: Wilmington area sees spike in COVID-19 cases, deaths

With officials expecting to see a large spike in cases in January and February following the holidays, the magnitude of this spike will be contingent on activity in November and early December, Dr. Philip Brown with New Hanover Regional Medical Center told council members at an October meeting.

Though the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services recommends individuals do not participate in shopping that includes waiting in front of stores in large groups or crowding in stores for extended times, they urge those who do go Black Friday shopping to follow the three w's: wear a face covering, wait six feet from other people and wash your hands frequently. 

Before going shopping, though, the department also recommends checking to see if a store offers online shopping or curbside pick-up options, shopping when there are fewer people in a store and seeing if stores offer special hours for people with high risk for severe illness.  

Noah Johnson can be reached at 910-343-2364 or