WOODSTOCK — Following an unusual Black Friday in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the retail holiday appeared to mostly be back to normal Friday at The Outlet Shoppes at Atlanta in Woodstock.

Traffic was snarled along Interstate 575 at Ridgewalk Parkway, a stream of cars constantly circled the parking lot looking for a seemingly elusive space and families weighed down by their retail conquests lined the shopping center’s alleys and shops.

For Kimberly Low, Friday marked a return to post-Thanksgiving shopping. Low, who lives in Acworth, said her family skipped out on Black Friday shopping last year due to the pandemic.

“We did some online shopping but decided to stay home last year,” she said. “But we feel more comfortable about coming out now.”

Though COVID-19 figures in Cherokee County and the state remained relatively low compared to last year and over 50 percent of county residents are vaccinated, the pandemic was not absent from this year’s Black Friday shopping season at the Outlet Shoppes. Several stores were limiting the number of customers permitted in the store at one time, and many had signs on their storefronts asking customers to wear face masks while inside.

Low said a recent decline in cases and rise those vaccinated went into her family’s decision to return to Black Friday shopping in person, adding that some sense of normalcy around the holiday season was important.

Regardless, Low said, her family has joined a trend of those doing more holiday shopping online in recent years.

“I used to do all my holiday shopping on Black Friday, but with Cyber Monday and things like that, I have started to do more online,” Low said. “Now I don’t feel like I have to get all my shopping done today to get good deals, because I know there will be some online, too.”

Still, Black Friday shopping is a ritual for many, including Low.

“I still like getting up early on Black Friday and going out, it’s a tradition for us,” she said.

Brick-and-mortar shops provide the immediacy of having an item in possession once it’s purchased, and that’s why Jamal Best drove from Roswell to the Outlet Shoppes Friday morning.

Best said he and his young son were both in need of some new clothing, so he was willing to make the drive to Woodstock and wait in line at the Nike and Columbia stores to snag some deals.

For holiday shopping, though, Best will stick to buying from home.

“I prefer it,” he said. “I still like going to stores when I need something right away, but for Christmas shopping, I’d rather just stay at home. And the deals are sometimes just as good.”

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary website, the term “Black Friday” is said to have come from retailers turning a profit, i.e. going from “in the red” to “in the black” the day after Thanksgiving.

The National Retail Federation was expecting Black Friday sales to increase both online and in stores for the 12th consecutive year this year, with total sales domestically expected to exceed $800 million.

After Black Friday is Small Business Saturday, an initiative encouraging shoppers to buy from local, independently owned businesses. The holiday weekend is rounded out by Cyber Monday and Giving Tuesday.

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