Updated 3.20pm

With Black Friday sales in full swing across Malta, the sight of customers queuing up for hours and early traffic jams seem to be a thing of the past.

Just two years ago, eager customers would spend hours queuing and waiting on Black Friday morning to bag a bargain or two. Roads used to be jam-packed, as eager shoppers would spend the day hopping from one outlet after another. 

This Friday morning was a completely different scenario.

In Valley Road, Birkirkara, retail outlets were preparing Black Friday promotion signs, yet there was no sign of any traffic jams or crowds of people.

Queues were also conspicuously missing outside electronics stores such as Scan and Forestals, which in previous years would have customers queuing outside their outlets. 

Forestals today Photo: Jonathan Borg

Forestals on Black Friday in 2019 Photo: Chris Sant Fournier

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the behaviour of consumers and businesses, as many outlets have extended Black Friday offers throughout the whole month of November and pushed for e-commerce activity. 

Stores must also abide by public health regulations introduced due to the COVID-19 pandemic and restrict the maximum number of people inside stores at any given time. 

Despite no queues outside Scan, customers were already seen purchasing discounted items in the early morning.

Stephen Scerri, Scan operations director explained that the business decided to extend their discounts throughout the month to benefit both customers and staff. 

“We did the same thing last year, and as it was successful then, I believe it will be successful now too. Customers benefit too because they are not rushed to make a purchase in just one day,” he told Times of Malta

Despite offering month-long sales, he said the staff still expected a busy day ahead of them.

“All hands are on deck this weekend; we also have two parkers downstairs to manage the car park. It is the most exciting day of the year, as many start their Christmas shopping.”

Early customers looking for a bargain or two at Scan on Friday morning Photo: Giulia MagriEarly customers looking for a bargain or two at Scan on Friday morning Photo: Giulia Magri

Supply chain impact

When asked if Scan suffered from a shortage of supplies, Scerri confirmed that this was one of the biggest issues the outlet faced. 

“Unfortunately, we had to limit some offers because some stock didn’t arrive. Our suppliers are informing us that this shortage and delay in supplies could go on till mid next year.”

Another business which benefitted through the promotion of ‘Black Friday month' discounts is Atrium.

“Last year we ran offers on the last week. It was a very busy period which put our systems on edge and probably we did not offer the desired service to customers,” a marketing spokesperson said. 

“October was a pretty slow month. November had a very good start and momentum is still good, so we can say that the campaign was effective.”

Busier afternoon

According to Abigail Mamo, CEO of the Malta Chamber of SMEs, the quiet morning, and lack of queues was expected. 

“Businesses are no longer just focusing on the weekend for Black Friday offers but have shifted their strategy to extending sales to a week and even a month, which has reduced the requirement and pressure for customers to queue and wait long hours to find a deal,” she said.

Mamo said that keeping in mind to control COVID-19 cases and reduced traffic, the lobby is happy to see fewer crowds. 

However by the afternoon, Mamo said businesses saw an increase in sales and activity.

Sliema, Pama shopping centre in Mosta, Birkirkara and even businesses in Gozo all reported positive feedback to the Chamber so far. 

She said that some businesses that promoted their offers on Thursday had a bumpy start to Black Friday due to the bad weather conditions. 

“Some businesses were unable to prepare stock yesterday because of the weather and had to finalise everything this morning - but they are managing too."

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