7 ways Black Friday shopping changed this year due to the pandemic, from sales starting online in October to empty stores

Black Friday

Black Friday looked different this year, and some are theorizing that it will never look the same again.

The entire holiday shopping season was upended by the coronavirus pandemic, with sales that started earlier and were mostly online. Retail trade group the National Retail Federation said that nearly 69% of retailers that responded to a survey said they expected consumers to start their holiday shopping in October, and the sales have been going ever since.

The organization projected that overall holiday spending would be slightly down, at $997.79 per consumer, but 60% of shoppers in its survey said they planned to do at least some holiday shopping online, in a year when e-commerce has boomed. Analysts from eMarketer predicted that holiday spending this year would total about $1 trillion, with a slight decrease in in-store sales but a 35% jump in online sales.

Read more: Retailers are struggling to attract seasonal workers for what experts anticipate will be a 'tough holiday season'

The analysts predicted that as shoppers avoid crowds and are drawn in with monthlong sales, e-commerce spending would make up about $190 billion of the $1 trillion in holiday spending. So far, stores look mostly empty, while it remains to be seen if the bulk of online orders will exceed the capacity of shipping companies and cause delays.

Here's how Black Friday is different this year.

Black Friday is no longer just one day

Amazon prime day 2019
Amazon launched a separate page featuring celebrity-backed products during last year's Prime Day.

Black Friday's remaining connection to its namesake day is tenuous, at best. Sales arguably started with Amazon's Prime Day in October, which itself was spread across two days. Other stores like Walmart responded with similar sales, kicking off the holiday shopping bonanza in a year of huge e-commerce growth.

"I don't even know if I'd call it Black Friday anymore," Boston Consulting Group's head of retail, Nate Shenck, told Business Insider. Walmart, Target, and Best Buy, traditionally three of the biggest Black Friday sellers, each opted to spread deals across the entire month of November, instead of concentrating them on the day after Thanksgiving.

A major change from previous years was spreading sales across the month instead of packing them into one day. Deals were be divided by type of product, so electronics shoppers wouldn't have to fight with home-goods buyers and parents picking up last-minute toys.

No more lining up in the middle of the night 

black friday comparison

Black Friday sales previously crept earlier and earlier, into Thanksgiving itself as some stores released the biggest sales before dinner was even over. This year, though, most retailers reversed that trend, and may have ended it for good.

Most stores did not open on Thanksgiving this year, even the ones that traditionally have like Walmart and Target. On Black Friday, they opened slightly earlier than normal, but midnight openings were rare. JC Penney, Kohl's, Dick's Sporting Goods, and other were among the earliest, opening at 5 a.m.

Though deals were spread across the month, actual hours on Black Friday were cut from past years, which experts cautioned could lead to more crowding.

Shoppers had to follow COVID safety protocols

Walmart shopper

Consumers couldn't walk inside stores this year without being intensely aware of the pandemic going on. Retailers had to make shoppers feel safe. For Walmart's coronavirus pandemic measures, stores were limited to 20% of capacity, and Walmart just started counting customers going in and out of stores again as COVID-19 cases rise.

Each shopper was offered a sanitized cart when they entered the store, and "health ambassadors" reminded them to wear masks on Black Friday, according to Walmart.

"We're reinforcing our messaging to customers, members, and associates regarding wearing face coverings, social distancing, and other safety measures," Walmart said in a third-quarter earnings call.

Target and Best Buy, along with Walmart, required customers to wear face masks and limited the number of people allowed inside. Each store also emphasized specific cleaning procedures, and many had floor markings and signs encouraging six feet of distance between people where possible.

Many stores were much less busy

mall black friday

Photos of stores so far on Black Friday have shown them to be much emptier than in years past. The flagship Macy's store in New York City was nearly empty, and photos from social media showed malls and retailers across the country lacking the usual crowds. Walmart and other retailers were also prepared to keep stores at lower capacities, if necessary.

People likely stayed home because of the coronavirus, which is surging across the country. The CDC classified shopping on Black Friday as a "higher-risk activity," and experts warned even with masks and social distancing, there was still some danger of infection.'

"Going during off-hours, low crowd times, and having a plan when you're going to these stores is going to be critical," Jill Weatherhead, an assistant professor of infectious disease at Baylor University, told Business Insider. Dr. Stephen Kissler at the Harvard School of Public Health said that he wouldn't be shopping on Black Friday, and said that he "personally would try to take measures to do it more safely, mostly online."

It's easier than ever to order delivery or curbside pickup

rei worker curbside pickup

Along with spreading sales throughout the month, retailers' other main strategy was encouraging customers or order online or buy using curbside pickup.

In their holiday plans, Best Buy and Target focused statements on options to get orders without going inside stores. That may be appealing to customers who want to avoid crowded stores during a pandemic, though it could backfire if mail systems are overwhelmed and packages arrive late. Target also doubled parking spots for contactless pickup and created a tool to let customers check if their store has a line before they arrive.

Online sales exploded

Though in-store shopping was down on Black Friday this year, online shopping has been way up. On Thanksgiving, people spent $5.1 billion online, up over 21% from last year according to Adobe Analytics data. Big e-commerce spending continued throughout the month, with over $1 billion in sales each day in November. These numbers suggest that companies "successfully moved shoppers to buy earlier in the season with early discounts and effective promotions," according to Adobe.

By Thanksgiving, online shoppers had spent $71 billion in November, which doesn't include data from Black Friday. The day "has become less of a physical event and more of a virtual event in the last five to six years," senior vice president at Kantar Retail Dave Marcotte told Business Insider.

The biggest items aren't on sale

PlayStation 5 PS5 Box

The exception to a decentralized, quieter Black Friday has been video game retailers, where consumers are waiting for hours just for the chance to buy a new PlayStation 5.

With high demand for the console and limited supplies, PlayStations get bought up nearly as soon as they are restocked, and are reselling for double or more the $500 price tag, Business Insider's senior correspondent Ben Gilbert reported. Some extreme fans even started camping outside of GameStop stores on Wednesday for the chance to buy the console on Friday.

The PlayStation 5 isn't discounted at all. The long lines are due to the console's scarcity.

Read the original article on Business Insider

7 ways Black Friday shopping changed this year due to the pandemic, from sales starting online in October to empty stores

Black Friday

Black Friday looked different this year, and some are theorizing that it will never look the same again.

The entire holiday shopping season was upended by the coronavirus pandemic, with sales that started earlier and were mostly online. Retail trade group the National Retail Federation said that nearly 69% of retailers that responded to a survey said they expected consumers to start their holiday shopping in October, and the sales have been going ever since.

The organization projected that overall holiday spending would be slightly down, at $997.79 per consumer, but 60% of shoppers in its survey said they planned to do at least some holiday shopping online, in a year when e-commerce has boomed. Analysts from eMarketer predicted that holiday spending this year would total about $1 trillion, with a slight decrease in in-store sales but a 35% jump in online sales.

Read more: Retailers are struggling to attract seasonal workers for what experts anticipate will be a 'tough holiday season'

The analysts predicted that as shoppers avoid crowds and are drawn in with monthlong sales, e-commerce spending would make up about $190 billion of the $1 trillion in holiday spending. So far, stores look mostly empty, while it remains to be seen if the bulk of online orders will exceed the capacity of shipping companies and cause delays.

Here's how Black Friday is different this year.

Black Friday is no longer just one day

Amazon prime day 2019
Amazon launched a separate page featuring celebrity-backed products during last year's Prime Day.

Black Friday's remaining connection to its namesake day is tenuous, at best. Sales arguably started with Amazon's Prime Day in October, which itself was spread across two days. Other stores like Walmart responded with similar sales, kicking off the holiday shopping bonanza in a year of huge e-commerce growth.

"I don't even know if I'd call it Black Friday anymore," Boston Consulting Group's head of retail, Nate Shenck, told Business Insider. Walmart, Target, and Best Buy, traditionally three of the biggest Black Friday sellers, each opted to spread deals across the entire month of November, instead of concentrating them on the day after Thanksgiving.

A major change from previous years was spreading sales across the month instead of packing them into one day. Deals were be divided by type of product, so electronics shoppers wouldn't have to fight with home-goods buyers and parents picking up last-minute toys.

No more lining up in the middle of the night 

black friday comparison

Black Friday sales previously crept earlier and earlier, into Thanksgiving itself as some stores released the biggest sales before dinner was even over. This year, though, most retailers reversed that trend, and may have ended it for good.

Most stores did not open on Thanksgiving this year, even the ones that traditionally have like Walmart and Target. On Black Friday, they opened slightly earlier than normal, but midnight openings were rare. JC Penney, Kohl's, Dick's Sporting Goods, and other were among the earliest, opening at 5 a.m.

Though deals were spread across the month, actual hours on Black Friday were cut from past years, which experts cautioned could lead to more crowding.

Shoppers had to follow COVID safety protocols

Walmart shopper

Consumers couldn't walk inside stores this year without being intensely aware of the pandemic going on. Retailers had to make shoppers feel safe. For Walmart's coronavirus pandemic measures, stores were limited to 20% of capacity, and Walmart just started counting customers going in and out of stores again as COVID-19 cases rise.

Each shopper was offered a sanitized cart when they entered the store, and "health ambassadors" reminded them to wear masks on Black Friday, according to Walmart.

"We're reinforcing our messaging to customers, members, and associates regarding wearing face coverings, social distancing, and other safety measures," Walmart said in a third-quarter earnings call.

Target and Best Buy, along with Walmart, required customers to wear face masks and limited the number of people allowed inside. Each store also emphasized specific cleaning procedures, and many had floor markings and signs encouraging six feet of distance between people where possible.

Many stores were much less busy

mall black friday

Photos of stores so far on Black Friday have shown them to be much emptier than in years past. The flagship Macy's store in New York City was nearly empty, and photos from social media showed malls and retailers across the country lacking the usual crowds. Walmart and other retailers were also prepared to keep stores at lower capacities, if necessary.

People likely stayed home because of the coronavirus, which is surging across the country. The CDC classified shopping on Black Friday as a "higher-risk activity," and experts warned even with masks and social distancing, there was still some danger of infection.'

"Going during off-hours, low crowd times, and having a plan when you're going to these stores is going to be critical," Jill Weatherhead, an assistant professor of infectious disease at Baylor University, told Business Insider. Dr. Stephen Kissler at the Harvard School of Public Health said that he wouldn't be shopping on Black Friday, and said that he "personally would try to take measures to do it more safely, mostly online."

It's easier than ever to order delivery or curbside pickup

rei worker curbside pickup

Along with spreading sales throughout the month, retailers' other main strategy was encouraging customers or order online or buy using curbside pickup.

In their holiday plans, Best Buy and Target focused statements on options to get orders without going inside stores. That may be appealing to customers who want to avoid crowded stores during a pandemic, though it could backfire if mail systems are overwhelmed and packages arrive late. Target also doubled parking spots for contactless pickup and created a tool to let customers check if their store has a line before they arrive.

Online sales exploded

Though in-store shopping was down on Black Friday this year, online shopping has been way up. On Thanksgiving, people spent $5.1 billion online, up over 21% from last year according to Adobe Analytics data. Big e-commerce spending continued throughout the month, with over $1 billion in sales each day in November. These numbers suggest that companies "successfully moved shoppers to buy earlier in the season with early discounts and effective promotions," according to Adobe.

By Thanksgiving, online shoppers had spent $71 billion in November, which doesn't include data from Black Friday. The day "has become less of a physical event and more of a virtual event in the last five to six years," senior vice president at Kantar Retail Dave Marcotte told Business Insider.

The biggest items aren't on sale

PlayStation 5 PS5 Box

The exception to a decentralized, quieter Black Friday has been video game retailers, where consumers are waiting for hours just for the chance to buy a new PlayStation 5.

With high demand for the console and limited supplies, PlayStations get bought up nearly as soon as they are restocked, and are reselling for double or more the $500 price tag, Business Insider's senior correspondent Ben Gilbert reported. Some extreme fans even started camping outside of GameStop stores on Wednesday for the chance to buy the console on Friday.

The PlayStation 5 isn't discounted at all. The long lines are due to the console's scarcity.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Tony Hsieh, the ex-CEO of Zappos, has died aged 46 due to injuries sustained in a house fire

Tony Hsieh
Hsieh speaks onstage at CinemaCon’s final day luncheon and special presentation.
  • The cause of death was injuries he sustained from a house fire, a spokesperson told TechCrunch.
  • Hsieh led the online shoe and clothing retailer, which he sold to Amazon for $1.2 billion.
  • He had recently retired after 20 years with the company.
  • Zappos current CEO called Hsieh a "tremendous visionary and an incredible human being."
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Tony Hsieh, the former CEO of Zappos, has died aged 46. 

The cause of death was injuries he sustained from a house fire, a spokesperson told TechCrunch. He was apparently visiting his family in Connecticut at the time. 

Hsieh led the online shoe and clothing retailer Zappos, which he sold to Amazon for $1.2 billion. After 20 years with the company, he recently retired.

Zappos CEO, Kedar Deshpande, wrote in a statement Friday."The world has lost a tremendous visionary and an incredible human being," Deshpande wrote. "We recognize that not only have we lost our inspiring former leader, but many of you have also lost a mentor and a friend."


Read the original article on Business Insider

Tony Hsieh, the ex-CEO of Zappos, has died aged 46 due to injuries sustained in a house fire

Tony Hsieh
Hsieh speaks onstage at CinemaCon’s final day luncheon and special presentation.
  • The cause of death was injuries he sustained from a house fire, a spokesperson told TechCrunch.
  • Hsieh led the online shoe and clothing retailer, which he sold to Amazon for $1.2 billion.
  • He had recently retired after 20 years with the company.
  • Zappos current CEO called Hsieh a "tremendous visionary and an incredible human being."
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Tony Hsieh, the former CEO of Zappos, has died aged 46. 

The cause of death was injuries he sustained from a house fire, a spokesperson told TechCrunch. He was apparently visiting his family in Connecticut at the time. 

Hsieh led the online shoe and clothing retailer Zappos, which he sold to Amazon for $1.2 billion. After 20 years with the company, he recently retired.

Zappos CEO, Kedar Deshpande, wrote in a statement Friday."The world has lost a tremendous visionary and an incredible human being," Deshpande wrote. "We recognize that not only have we lost our inspiring former leader, but many of you have also lost a mentor and a friend."


Read the original article on Business Insider

I flew on the Spirit Airlines’ first ‘shuttle’ flight from Newark to Boston for $25 and still overpaid – here’s why it’s a great budget option

Spirit
I flew on the first Spirit Airlines flight from Newark to Boston for $25.
  • Spirit Airlines inaugurated service between Newark and Boston on November 18, becoming the fifth carrier on the busy route. 
  • The two daily flights join a competitive sector dominated by American, Delta, United, and JetBlue, primarily serving business travelers and offering bonus perks for flyers. 
  • We flew on the first flight from Newark to Boston to see if Spirit's dirt-cheap fares held up to the competition on the 200-mile route.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Shipping up to Boston from New York just got a whole lot cheaper.

Spirit Airlines just launched its newest route between Newark and Boston on November 18, one of the shortest in its network. Starting with only two daily flights, the carrier joins a highly-competitive sector that sees four other airlines flying between the two cities with countless flights. 

The New York-Boston route typically serves the business traveler segment and is known for the shuttle flights offered by American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, and JetBlue Airways from New York's LaGuardia Airport. The elite clientele flying the route often makes the short flights back and forth quite expensive since airlines know business travelers are willing to pay.

In true ultra-low-cost carrier fashion, however, Spirit is now the cheapest carrier on the route by far, offering fares as low as $18 one-way. That beats all other airlines and even most bus and rail connections between the two cities, save for the famous one-dollar bus. 

I flew on the first flight to Beantown to see just how Spirit would hold its own on the 200-mile route. It's not technically a shuttle flight since it doesn't depart from LaGuardia but, for the purposes of this story, that's how I'll refer to it. 

Here's what it's like flying on a Spirit Airlines shuttle flight from Newark to Boston.

Though the first flight of any new route should be cause for celebration, it was shockingly empty at Newark airport just a week before Thanksgiving.
Spirit Airlines Newark-Boston Inaugural Flight
Flying from Newark to Boston on Spirit Airlines.
Spirit Airlines uses Terminal B here and while typically reserved for international carriers, it's also used by Allegiant, Frontier, and Delta, so it should've been busier.
Spirit Airlines Newark-Boston Inaugural Flight
Flying from Newark to Boston on Spirit Airlines.
I'd flown Spirit over the summer so knew what to expect from the airline: plexiglass partitions at check-in, masks required onboard, hand sanitizer stations during boarding, etc.
Spirit Airlines Newark-Boston Inaugural Flight
Flying from Newark to Boston on Spirit Airlines.

Read More: I flew on the infamous Spirit Airlines for the first time and saw how well no-frills can actually co-exist with safety – here's what it was like

I also knew I could skip check-in and go to a kiosk to save money on printing a boarding pass, so I headed straight there.
Spirit Airlines Newark-Boston Inaugural Flight
Flying from Newark to Boston on Spirit Airlines.
The seating map for the flight showed full, which I figured par for the course as Spirit had canceled the flight later in the day to Boston and presumably bumped all those passengers onto this flight. I was assigned an aisle seat, though, so I wasn't too worried.
Spirit Airlines Newark-Boston Inaugural Flight
Flying from Newark to Boston on Spirit Airlines.
Boarding pass in hand, I headed straight to the gate as there wasn't anything worth sticking around pre-security to enjoy. Some of the shops were open but the Priority Pass lounge was not.
Spirit Airlines Newark-Boston Inaugural Flight
Flying from Newark to Boston on Spirit Airlines.
Spirit participates in TSA PreCheck but, as is my typical experience when flying on an ultra-low-cost airline, it wasn't printed on my boarding pass despite uploading my known traveler number.
Spirit Airlines Newark-Boston Inaugural Flight
Flying from Newark to Boston on Spirit Airlines.
While it may seem like a superficial perk to a leisure traveler, it can mean saving valuable minutes for a business traveler. In this case, the difference between PreCheck and regular security was 25 minutes.
Spirit Airlines Newark to Boston Inaugural Flight
Flying from Newark to Boston on Spirit Airlines.
Arriving at the gate a few minutes before boarding, I was sure that the flight would be full as the gate area was jam-packed. As I waited for boarding, I went to go have a look at the plane.
Spirit Airlines Newark-Boston Inaugural Flight
Flying from Newark to Boston on Spirit Airlines.
Our aircraft for the day would be one of Spirit's newest, an Airbus A320neo.
Spirit Airlines Newark-Boston Inaugural Flight
Flying from Newark to Boston on Spirit Airlines.
Still rare in the US, the fuel-efficient jet is a favorite among ultra-low-cost airlines due to its cost savings and this one had just been delivered in October.
Spirit Airlines Newark-Boston Inaugural Flight
Flying from Newark to Boston on Spirit Airlines.

Source: Planespotters.net

Despite the scores of people sitting near the gate, it became increasingly clear that this wouldn't be a crowded flight when boarding began.
Spirit Airlines Newark-Boston Inaugural Flight
Flying from Newark to Boston on Spirit Airlines.
Spirit boards its aircraft in zones, with zone assignments based on the type of ticket that you have and the seat you're assigned. If you have a Spirit credit card or purchased a special seat, you'll likely board in the first few zones.
Spirit Airlines Newark-Boston Inaugural Flight
Flying from Newark to Boston on Spirit Airlines.
After the crew boarded, only a small handful of passengers boarded with each zone. Numerous boarding calls for each zone yielded fewer passengers than expected.
Spirit Airlines Newark-Boston Inaugural Flight
Flying from Newark to Boston on Spirit Airlines.
The jetway was devoid of any Spirit Airlines-branded social distancing signage but Delta Air Lines was kind enough to place a few of its own.
Spirit Airlines Newark-Boston Inaugural Flight
Flying from Newark to Boston on Spirit Airlines.
Just before stepping on the plane, however, this Spirit Airlines-branded hand sanitizer dispenser awaited.
Spirit Airlines Newark-Boston Inaugural Flight
Flying from Newark to Boston on Spirit Airlines.
After a quick sanitization, it was time to board the bright yellow Airbus A320neo that would be home only for around an hour.
Spirit Airlines Newark-Boston Inaugural Flight
Flying from Newark to Boston on Spirit Airlines.
As hoped, it was mostly empty, making this short flight all the more enjoyable.
Spirit Airlines Newark-Boston Inaugural Flight
Flying from Newark to Boston on Spirit Airlines.
Row after row was deserted, a true paradise when flying during the pandemic; though, still a sad sign for the industry.
Spirit Airlines Newark-Boston Inaugural Flight
Flying from Newark to Boston on Spirit Airlines.
And even with the low passenger count, I was still assigned a seat in row 23. eight rows from the back.
Spirit Airlines Newark-Boston Inaugural Flight
Flying from Newark to Boston on Spirit Airlines.
Here I am in my aisle seat, in which I didn't stay long.
Spirit Airlines Newark-Boston Inaugural Flight
Flying from Newark to Boston on Spirit Airlines.
The plane was only a month old and it showed. The seats were impressively new, albeit slim.
Spirit Airlines Newark-Boston Inaugural Flight
Flying from Newark to Boston on Spirit Airlines.
Though covered in faux leather material, I could feel just how bare the seats were as soon as I sat down and wondered if I'd last on a cross-country flight in them.
Spirit Airlines Newark-Boston Inaugural Flight
Flying from Newark to Boston on Spirit Airlines.
Seats are 17.75 inches wide with small armrests and no additional recline.
Spirit Airlines Newark-Boston Inaugural Flight
Flying from Newark to Boston on Spirit Airlines.

Source: SeatGuru

Legroom was similarly meager with 28 inches of pitch, well below the industry average.
Spirit Airlines Newark-Boston Inaugural Flight
Flying from Newark to Boston on Spirit Airlines.

Source: SeatGuru

The tray table was also tiny and I reckoned I wouldn't comfortably be getting any work done on a laptop by using it.
Spirit Airlines Newark-Boston Inaugural Flight
Flying from Newark to Boston on Spirit Airlines.
Put simply, the seats were bare with no adjustable headrests, in-flight entertainment, or even in-seat power. Then again, I couldn't complain at $25 per seat.
Spirit Airlines Newark-Boston Inaugural Flight
Flying from Newark to Boston on Spirit Airlines.
For comfort, the "big front seat" offers a recliner seat similar to that in a domestic business class cabin. It doesn't come with any extra amenities; though, a flight attendant told me that Spirit is working on changing that.
Spirit Airlines Newark-Boston Inaugural Flight
Flying from Newark to Boston on Spirit Airlines.
I couldn't really stretch out but it was bearable for the 41-minute time up to Boston.
Spirit Airlines Newark-Boston Inaugural Flight
Flying from Newark to Boston on Spirit Airlines.
Once it became clear that there wasn't going to be anybody else joining me in my row, I moved over to the window as the views on this route are not to be missed.
Spirit Airlines Newark-Boston Inaugural Flight
Flying from Newark to Boston on Spirit Airlines.
I was greeted by a friendly "howdy" on the sharklet.
Spirit Airlines Newark-Boston Inaugural Flight
Flying from Newark to Boston on Spirit Airlines.
There were less than 30 passengers on the 182-seat plane, and that's after Spirit consolidated the two Boston flights into one.
Spirit Airlines Newark-Boston Inaugural Flight
Flying from Newark to Boston on Spirit Airlines.
Having so few passengers, we departed early and were in the air just 10 minutes after pushing back. Route I-95, the road that connects New York and Boston, was directly adjacent but its travelers wouldn't get to Boston as quickly as we would.
Spirit Airlines Newark-Boston Inaugural Flight
Flying from Newark to Boston on Spirit Airlines.
The plane was so light that we were able to get airborne in just a few seconds after advancing to full power.
Spirit Airlines Newark-Boston Inaugural Flight
Flying from Newark to Boston on Spirit Airlines.
My eyes were glued to the window for the first five minutes of the flight as the sights were incredible. First up, Lower Manhattan and the Freedom Tower...
Spirit Airlines Newark-Boston Inaugural Flight
Flying from Newark to Boston on Spirit Airlines.
Midtown...
Spirit Airlines Newark-Boston Inaugural Flight
Flying from Newark to Boston on Spirit Airlines.
And finally, the George Washington Bridge.
Spirit Airlines Newark-Boston Inaugural Flight
Flying from Newark to Boston on Spirit Airlines.
It was only a few minutes until we were parallel to the Connecticut coast, soaring high over the I-95 and Amtrak travelers that would arrive in Boston hours later.
Spirit Airlines Newark-Boston Inaugural Flight
Flying from Newark to Boston on Spirit Airlines.
To my surprise, the seatbelt sign was actually turned off for around 10 minutes and flight attendants started an in-flight service. As there were so few people, however, it was done without a trolley.
Spirit Airlines Newark-Boston Inaugural Flight
Flying from Newark to Boston on Spirit Airlines.
Unlike the shuttle flights, there'd be no free offering of any kind as there's even a price for water on Spirit. The only perks we'd get from the flight were the views.
Spirit Airlines Newark-Boston Inaugural Flight
Flying from Newark to Boston on Spirit Airlines.
New England in the fall is truly a sight to see, especially from a plane flying overhead.
Spirit Airlines Newark-Boston Inaugural Flight
Flying from Newark to Boston on Spirit Airlines.
We were preparing to land than a half-hour into the flight and Boston was luckily landing on its northwest-facing runway, which kept the flight time down.
Spirit Airlines Newark-Boston Inaugural Flight
Flying from Newark to Boston on Spirit Airlines.
Exactly 41 minutes from takeoff, we'd touched down in Boston.
Spirit Airlines Newark-Boston Inaugural Flight
Flying from Newark to Boston on Spirit Airlines.
It was just a quick taxi to the gate, past the JetBlue terminal, and then we were off.
Spirit Airlines Newark-Boston Inaugural Flight
Flying from Newark to Boston on Spirit Airlines.
In true shuttle-like fashion, I was on board the aircraft no more than an hour and a half from boarding to deplaning. Off to Boston!
Spirit Airlines Newark-Boston Inaugural Flight
Flying from Newark to Boston on Spirit Airlines.

While devoid of any frills or perks, Spirit provides an incredible value for money here and I even overpaid for my ticket as the flight normally costs $18 one-way. Spirit, of course, isn't perfect but a lot can be overlooked for that price on a flight that's less than an hour in duration.

The plane was new, the service was great, and I got to Boston earlier than scheduled. For a simple shuttle flight, it was actually quite enjoyable and I would undoubtedly choose Spirit again when traveling on the short hop to Boston, especially when on a budget. 

For a business traveler, however, the shuttle service from LaGuardia still has unbeatable perks like near-hourly service, an enhanced service offering, and dedicated gates. If in a pinch, the Spirit service will do just fine but don't expect any frills unless you pay up. 

Read the original article on Business Insider

I flew on the Spirit Airlines’ first ‘shuttle’ flight from Newark to Boston for $25 and still overpaid – here’s why it’s a great budget option

Spirit
I flew on the first Spirit Airlines flight from Newark to Boston for $25.
  • Spirit Airlines inaugurated service between Newark and Boston on November 18, becoming the fifth carrier on the busy route. 
  • The two daily flights join a competitive sector dominated by American, Delta, United, and JetBlue, primarily serving business travelers and offering bonus perks for flyers. 
  • We flew on the first flight from Newark to Boston to see if Spirit's dirt-cheap fares held up to the competition on the 200-mile route.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Shipping up to Boston from New York just got a whole lot cheaper.

Spirit Airlines just launched its newest route between Newark and Boston on November 18, one of the shortest in its network. Starting with only two daily flights, the carrier joins a highly-competitive sector that sees four other airlines flying between the two cities with countless flights. 

The New York-Boston route typically serves the business traveler segment and is known for the shuttle flights offered by American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, and JetBlue Airways from New York's LaGuardia Airport. The elite clientele flying the route often makes the short flights back and forth quite expensive since airlines know business travelers are willing to pay.

In true ultra-low-cost carrier fashion, however, Spirit is now the cheapest carrier on the route by far, offering fares as low as $18 one-way. That beats all other airlines and even most bus and rail connections between the two cities, save for the famous one-dollar bus. 

I flew on the first flight to Beantown to see just how Spirit would hold its own on the 200-mile route. It's not technically a shuttle flight since it doesn't depart from LaGuardia but, for the purposes of this story, that's how I'll refer to it. 

Here's what it's like flying on a Spirit Airlines shuttle flight from Newark to Boston.

Though the first flight of any new route should be cause for celebration, it was shockingly empty at Newark airport just a week before Thanksgiving.
Spirit Airlines Newark-Boston Inaugural Flight
Flying from Newark to Boston on Spirit Airlines.
Spirit Airlines uses Terminal B here and while typically reserved for international carriers, it's also used by Allegiant, Frontier, and Delta, so it should've been busier.
Spirit Airlines Newark-Boston Inaugural Flight
Flying from Newark to Boston on Spirit Airlines.
I'd flown Spirit over the summer so knew what to expect from the airline: plexiglass partitions at check-in, masks required onboard, hand sanitizer stations during boarding, etc.
Spirit Airlines Newark-Boston Inaugural Flight
Flying from Newark to Boston on Spirit Airlines.

Read More: I flew on the infamous Spirit Airlines for the first time and saw how well no-frills can actually co-exist with safety – here's what it was like

I also knew I could skip check-in and go to a kiosk to save money on printing a boarding pass, so I headed straight there.
Spirit Airlines Newark-Boston Inaugural Flight
Flying from Newark to Boston on Spirit Airlines.
The seating map for the flight showed full, which I figured par for the course as Spirit had canceled the flight later in the day to Boston and presumably bumped all those passengers onto this flight. I was assigned an aisle seat, though, so I wasn't too worried.
Spirit Airlines Newark-Boston Inaugural Flight
Flying from Newark to Boston on Spirit Airlines.
Boarding pass in hand, I headed straight to the gate as there wasn't anything worth sticking around pre-security to enjoy. Some of the shops were open but the Priority Pass lounge was not.
Spirit Airlines Newark-Boston Inaugural Flight
Flying from Newark to Boston on Spirit Airlines.
Spirit participates in TSA PreCheck but, as is my typical experience when flying on an ultra-low-cost airline, it wasn't printed on my boarding pass despite uploading my known traveler number.
Spirit Airlines Newark-Boston Inaugural Flight
Flying from Newark to Boston on Spirit Airlines.
While it may seem like a superficial perk to a leisure traveler, it can mean saving valuable minutes for a business traveler. In this case, the difference between PreCheck and regular security was 25 minutes.
Spirit Airlines Newark to Boston Inaugural Flight
Flying from Newark to Boston on Spirit Airlines.
Arriving at the gate a few minutes before boarding, I was sure that the flight would be full as the gate area was jam-packed. As I waited for boarding, I went to go have a look at the plane.
Spirit Airlines Newark-Boston Inaugural Flight
Flying from Newark to Boston on Spirit Airlines.
Our aircraft for the day would be one of Spirit's newest, an Airbus A320neo.
Spirit Airlines Newark-Boston Inaugural Flight
Flying from Newark to Boston on Spirit Airlines.
Still rare in the US, the fuel-efficient jet is a favorite among ultra-low-cost airlines due to its cost savings and this one had just been delivered in October.
Spirit Airlines Newark-Boston Inaugural Flight
Flying from Newark to Boston on Spirit Airlines.

Source: Planespotters.net

Despite the scores of people sitting near the gate, it became increasingly clear that this wouldn't be a crowded flight when boarding began.
Spirit Airlines Newark-Boston Inaugural Flight
Flying from Newark to Boston on Spirit Airlines.
Spirit boards its aircraft in zones, with zone assignments based on the type of ticket that you have and the seat you're assigned. If you have a Spirit credit card or purchased a special seat, you'll likely board in the first few zones.
Spirit Airlines Newark-Boston Inaugural Flight
Flying from Newark to Boston on Spirit Airlines.
After the crew boarded, only a small handful of passengers boarded with each zone. Numerous boarding calls for each zone yielded fewer passengers than expected.
Spirit Airlines Newark-Boston Inaugural Flight
Flying from Newark to Boston on Spirit Airlines.
The jetway was devoid of any Spirit Airlines-branded social distancing signage but Delta Air Lines was kind enough to place a few of its own.
Spirit Airlines Newark-Boston Inaugural Flight
Flying from Newark to Boston on Spirit Airlines.
Just before stepping on the plane, however, this Spirit Airlines-branded hand sanitizer dispenser awaited.
Spirit Airlines Newark-Boston Inaugural Flight
Flying from Newark to Boston on Spirit Airlines.
After a quick sanitization, it was time to board the bright yellow Airbus A320neo that would be home only for around an hour.
Spirit Airlines Newark-Boston Inaugural Flight
Flying from Newark to Boston on Spirit Airlines.
As hoped, it was mostly empty, making this short flight all the more enjoyable.
Spirit Airlines Newark-Boston Inaugural Flight
Flying from Newark to Boston on Spirit Airlines.
Row after row was deserted, a true paradise when flying during the pandemic; though, still a sad sign for the industry.
Spirit Airlines Newark-Boston Inaugural Flight
Flying from Newark to Boston on Spirit Airlines.
And even with the low passenger count, I was still assigned a seat in row 23. eight rows from the back.
Spirit Airlines Newark-Boston Inaugural Flight
Flying from Newark to Boston on Spirit Airlines.
Here I am in my aisle seat, in which I didn't stay long.
Spirit Airlines Newark-Boston Inaugural Flight
Flying from Newark to Boston on Spirit Airlines.
The plane was only a month old and it showed. The seats were impressively new, albeit slim.
Spirit Airlines Newark-Boston Inaugural Flight
Flying from Newark to Boston on Spirit Airlines.
Though covered in faux leather material, I could feel just how bare the seats were as soon as I sat down and wondered if I'd last on a cross-country flight in them.
Spirit Airlines Newark-Boston Inaugural Flight
Flying from Newark to Boston on Spirit Airlines.
Seats are 17.75 inches wide with small armrests and no additional recline.
Spirit Airlines Newark-Boston Inaugural Flight
Flying from Newark to Boston on Spirit Airlines.

Source: SeatGuru

Legroom was similarly meager with 28 inches of pitch, well below the industry average.
Spirit Airlines Newark-Boston Inaugural Flight
Flying from Newark to Boston on Spirit Airlines.

Source: SeatGuru

The tray table was also tiny and I reckoned I wouldn't comfortably be getting any work done on a laptop by using it.
Spirit Airlines Newark-Boston Inaugural Flight
Flying from Newark to Boston on Spirit Airlines.
Put simply, the seats were bare with no adjustable headrests, in-flight entertainment, or even in-seat power. Then again, I couldn't complain at $25 per seat.
Spirit Airlines Newark-Boston Inaugural Flight
Flying from Newark to Boston on Spirit Airlines.
For comfort, the "big front seat" offers a recliner seat similar to that in a domestic business class cabin. It doesn't come with any extra amenities; though, a flight attendant told me that Spirit is working on changing that.
Spirit Airlines Newark-Boston Inaugural Flight
Flying from Newark to Boston on Spirit Airlines.
I couldn't really stretch out but it was bearable for the 41-minute time up to Boston.
Spirit Airlines Newark-Boston Inaugural Flight
Flying from Newark to Boston on Spirit Airlines.
Once it became clear that there wasn't going to be anybody else joining me in my row, I moved over to the window as the views on this route are not to be missed.
Spirit Airlines Newark-Boston Inaugural Flight
Flying from Newark to Boston on Spirit Airlines.
I was greeted by a friendly "howdy" on the sharklet.
Spirit Airlines Newark-Boston Inaugural Flight
Flying from Newark to Boston on Spirit Airlines.
There were less than 30 passengers on the 182-seat plane, and that's after Spirit consolidated the two Boston flights into one.
Spirit Airlines Newark-Boston Inaugural Flight
Flying from Newark to Boston on Spirit Airlines.
Having so few passengers, we departed early and were in the air just 10 minutes after pushing back. Route I-95, the road that connects New York and Boston, was directly adjacent but its travelers wouldn't get to Boston as quickly as we would.
Spirit Airlines Newark-Boston Inaugural Flight
Flying from Newark to Boston on Spirit Airlines.
The plane was so light that we were able to get airborne in just a few seconds after advancing to full power.
Spirit Airlines Newark-Boston Inaugural Flight
Flying from Newark to Boston on Spirit Airlines.
My eyes were glued to the window for the first five minutes of the flight as the sights were incredible. First up, Lower Manhattan and the Freedom Tower...
Spirit Airlines Newark-Boston Inaugural Flight
Flying from Newark to Boston on Spirit Airlines.
Midtown...
Spirit Airlines Newark-Boston Inaugural Flight
Flying from Newark to Boston on Spirit Airlines.
And finally, the George Washington Bridge.
Spirit Airlines Newark-Boston Inaugural Flight
Flying from Newark to Boston on Spirit Airlines.
It was only a few minutes until we were parallel to the Connecticut coast, soaring high over the I-95 and Amtrak travelers that would arrive in Boston hours later.
Spirit Airlines Newark-Boston Inaugural Flight
Flying from Newark to Boston on Spirit Airlines.
To my surprise, the seatbelt sign was actually turned off for around 10 minutes and flight attendants started an in-flight service. As there were so few people, however, it was done without a trolley.
Spirit Airlines Newark-Boston Inaugural Flight
Flying from Newark to Boston on Spirit Airlines.
Unlike the shuttle flights, there'd be no free offering of any kind as there's even a price for water on Spirit. The only perks we'd get from the flight were the views.
Spirit Airlines Newark-Boston Inaugural Flight
Flying from Newark to Boston on Spirit Airlines.
New England in the fall is truly a sight to see, especially from a plane flying overhead.
Spirit Airlines Newark-Boston Inaugural Flight
Flying from Newark to Boston on Spirit Airlines.
We were preparing to land than a half-hour into the flight and Boston was luckily landing on its northwest-facing runway, which kept the flight time down.
Spirit Airlines Newark-Boston Inaugural Flight
Flying from Newark to Boston on Spirit Airlines.
Exactly 41 minutes from takeoff, we'd touched down in Boston.
Spirit Airlines Newark-Boston Inaugural Flight
Flying from Newark to Boston on Spirit Airlines.
It was just a quick taxi to the gate, past the JetBlue terminal, and then we were off.
Spirit Airlines Newark-Boston Inaugural Flight
Flying from Newark to Boston on Spirit Airlines.
In true shuttle-like fashion, I was on board the aircraft no more than an hour and a half from boarding to deplaning. Off to Boston!
Spirit Airlines Newark-Boston Inaugural Flight
Flying from Newark to Boston on Spirit Airlines.

While devoid of any frills or perks, Spirit provides an incredible value for money here and I even overpaid for my ticket as the flight normally costs $18 one-way. Spirit, of course, isn't perfect but a lot can be overlooked for that price on a flight that's less than an hour in duration.

The plane was new, the service was great, and I got to Boston earlier than scheduled. For a simple shuttle flight, it was actually quite enjoyable and I would undoubtedly choose Spirit again when traveling on the short hop to Boston, especially when on a budget. 

For a business traveler, however, the shuttle service from LaGuardia still has unbeatable perks like near-hourly service, an enhanced service offering, and dedicated gates. If in a pinch, the Spirit service will do just fine but don't expect any frills unless you pay up. 

Read the original article on Business Insider

Small businesses are seeing the biggest shift in how we shop since the Great Depression. Here’s how entrepreneurs can reach the morally minded, Instagram-oriented customer.

Small business owner
  • This holiday season, consumers are shopping differently, using their dollars to reflect their values and have a greater impact.
  • Experts argue that just as one day in the year doesn't define a company's success, one unofficial holiday is no longer the key to making your end-of-year sales. 
  • Business Insider spoke with economists and business leaders about what the holiday season means for small business survival and the U.S. economy.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Over the past several months, Tal Zvi Nathanel has noticed customers adopting a different mindset when they shop in-person and online at his New York City retail store and art gallery, Showfields.

Located in Manhattan's Lower East Side neighborhood with a second store in Miami, another crucial Showfields location is on customers' smartphones, where they can walk through the front doors, browse curated collections of beauty, art, and lifetsyle products, and check out with a swipe and a click.

Nathanel told Business Insider that he noticed instead of browsing by product or price, customers are spending their dollars based on criteria like where the product is made, the cause behind the brand, and who's selling it. They, like many American consumers, have become more mission-driven.

"It's less about, How much does it cost?" Nathanel said. "It's more about, What's the impact?"

SHOWFIELDS store in NYC 2
Showfields exhibits art that creates an immersive experience for customers.

If there's one thing 2020 has taught entrepreneurs, it's to prepare for change. In just six months, the pandemic has forced nearly 100,000 small businesses to shut down for good, and customer preferences have shifted even more to ecommerce, delivery, and virtual business models.

Now that the holiday season is upon us, business owners that have weathered the storm thus far are wondering what moves they should make next. Small Business Saturday — the day after Black Friday — typically gives entrepreneurs a leg up on the holiday season. Several business owners told Business Insider they rely on the holiday season for at least 30% of their annual sales.

It's not so simple this year, and what happens in the last six weeks of 2020 could have major impact on America's economic recovery. Small businesses with fewer than 100 workers account for 98.2% of employers and businesses with fewer than 20 workers account for 89% of employers, according to the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council. According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), more than 98% percent of all retail companies employ fewer than 50 people. Without a revival on Main Street, the American economy won't right itself any time soon.

Business Insider spoke with economists and business leaders about where small businesses are headed in America's economic future, and they stressed that entrepreneurs will need to examine how their customers' experiences have shaped their buying behaviors — and be prepared to make changes to accommodate them. 

The key takeaways for business owners: Identify and appeal to the value-conscious consumer, and set up as many points-of-sale as possible.

The largest shift in consumer values since the Great Depression

This shopping year is unlike any other.

In practice, consumers have adapted their purchasing habits to the times by shopping online earlier to avoid pandemic-induced shipping delays. The data indicates that culturally, shopping local has become a sign of one's values, humanity, and morality. Seven out of 10 holiday shoppers find it more important to support small businesses than to get a good deal — 43% said they were willing to spend $20 more on an item to support a small business rather than save $20 at a large retailer — according to a survey by Union Bank and research firm Edelman Intelligence.

sewing masks coronavirus
Many businesses pivoted to sewing and selling masks during the pandemic.

An anaylsis by communications agency Zeno Group found that the most important values among consumers this year are protecting family, self-reliance, simplicity, honesty, and duty — rather than the sentiments of ambition, experiences, travel, and adventure that have ruled behavior and preferences in years passed.

Alison DaSilva, the managing director of purpose and impact at Zeno Group, said this shift in American values is unlike any since the Great Depression.

"They want to have an impact with the decisions that they make when they're shopping — an impact on society, on their family, on the world at large," she said. "This notion of people wanting to use their dollars to have a greater impact and saving small business is very top of mind."

That's good news for entrepreneurs who can find a way to get customers to connect with their purpose or founding story. Leon VanGelder, the VP of small business advertising for music streaming platform Pandora, said that in a survey of 2,000 listeners, more than half of holiday gift-givers planned to shop local. VanGelder pointed to millennials, Gen-Z women, and households with incomes of $100,000 or more as the key groups most likely to shop local.

Consumers want to support small businesses — you just have to meet them where they are

Given the loss, uncertainty, and tragedy that have marked 2020, experts argue that just as one day in the year doesn't define a company's success, one unofficial holiday is no longer the key to making your end-of-year sales. For many, Small Business Saturday is a symbol of the season on which they pin their hopes of meeting revenue goals. 

Ann Cantrell of Annie's Blue Ribbon General Store in Brooklyn, New York, said 37% of her 2019 sales came in the last two months of the year. Kaylin Marcotte of JIGGY Puzzles and Jelani Memory of A Kids Book About in Portland, Oregon, both expect to make a third of their 2020 revenue in that time. For Ali Rose of Genusee Eyewear in Flint, Michigan, it's nearly half.

Despite all the changes in 2020, the NRF expects total US retail sales to grow between 3.6% and 5.2% in November and December, compared to a 3.5% average increase over the past five years. Even for business owners desparate to attract customers this year, it's not the time to slash prices on everything in the store, said Fred Hurvitz, a marketing professor at Pennsylvania State University. That's because he expects to see more people stick to necessities this holiday season.

"People don't have to make those purchases," he said. "Anything that's discretionary will probably be put on hold." 

Even for the smallest businesses, experts agree there is one strategy entrepreneurs can employ to protect themselves: Sell wherever possible. 

Tal Zvi Nathanel

"If you don't have online offerings for people, you're in trouble," Prisinzano said. 

Penn State marketing professor Fred Hurvitz expects omni-channel businesses with multiple purchasing and payment options will see the best holiday sales.

Showfields is just one example of a business taking such an approach, offering contactless payment, an app that enhances customers' in-store experience, virtual online tours, an ecommerce site, and curbside pickup.

Nathanel said the pandemic has provided his business with an excuse to innovate. For example, Showfields' Magic Wand app escorts customers through its store and gallery, and presents a mobile payment screen at checkout.

"It pushed us to redefine many things we know how to do very well physically," he said, "and try to figure out if there are other ways to do that."

Emily Canal also contributed reporting for this story.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Small businesses are seeing the biggest shift in how we shop since the Great Depression. Here’s how entrepreneurs can reach the morally minded, Instagram-oriented customer.

Small business owner
  • This holiday season, consumers are shopping differently, using their dollars to reflect their values and have a greater impact.
  • Experts argue that just as one day in the year doesn't define a company's success, one unofficial holiday is no longer the key to making your end-of-year sales. 
  • Business Insider spoke with economists and business leaders about what the holiday season means for small business survival and the U.S. economy.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Over the past several months, Tal Zvi Nathanel has noticed customers adopting a different mindset when they shop in-person and online at his New York City retail store and art gallery, Showfields.

Located in Manhattan's Lower East Side neighborhood with a second store in Miami, another crucial Showfields location is on customers' smartphones, where they can walk through the front doors, browse curated collections of beauty, art, and lifetsyle products, and check out with a swipe and a click.

Nathanel told Business Insider that he noticed instead of browsing by product or price, customers are spending their dollars based on criteria like where the product is made, the cause behind the brand, and who's selling it. They, like many American consumers, have become more mission-driven.

"It's less about, How much does it cost?" Nathanel said. "It's more about, What's the impact?"

SHOWFIELDS store in NYC 2
Showfields exhibits art that creates an immersive experience for customers.

If there's one thing 2020 has taught entrepreneurs, it's to prepare for change. In just six months, the pandemic has forced nearly 100,000 small businesses to shut down for good, and customer preferences have shifted even more to ecommerce, delivery, and virtual business models.

Now that the holiday season is upon us, business owners that have weathered the storm thus far are wondering what moves they should make next. Small Business Saturday — the day after Black Friday — typically gives entrepreneurs a leg up on the holiday season. Several business owners told Business Insider they rely on the holiday season for at least 30% of their annual sales.

It's not so simple this year, and what happens in the last six weeks of 2020 could have major impact on America's economic recovery. Small businesses with fewer than 100 workers account for 98.2% of employers and businesses with fewer than 20 workers account for 89% of employers, according to the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council. According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), more than 98% percent of all retail companies employ fewer than 50 people. Without a revival on Main Street, the American economy won't right itself any time soon.

Business Insider spoke with economists and business leaders about where small businesses are headed in America's economic future, and they stressed that entrepreneurs will need to examine how their customers' experiences have shaped their buying behaviors — and be prepared to make changes to accommodate them. 

The key takeaways for business owners: Identify and appeal to the value-conscious consumer, and set up as many points-of-sale as possible.

The largest shift in consumer values since the Great Depression

This shopping year is unlike any other.

In practice, consumers have adapted their purchasing habits to the times by shopping online earlier to avoid pandemic-induced shipping delays. The data indicates that culturally, shopping local has become a sign of one's values, humanity, and morality. Seven out of 10 holiday shoppers find it more important to support small businesses than to get a good deal — 43% said they were willing to spend $20 more on an item to support a small business rather than save $20 at a large retailer — according to a survey by Union Bank and research firm Edelman Intelligence.

sewing masks coronavirus
Many businesses pivoted to sewing and selling masks during the pandemic.

An anaylsis by communications agency Zeno Group found that the most important values among consumers this year are protecting family, self-reliance, simplicity, honesty, and duty — rather than the sentiments of ambition, experiences, travel, and adventure that have ruled behavior and preferences in years passed.

Alison DaSilva, the managing director of purpose and impact at Zeno Group, said this shift in American values is unlike any since the Great Depression.

"They want to have an impact with the decisions that they make when they're shopping — an impact on society, on their family, on the world at large," she said. "This notion of people wanting to use their dollars to have a greater impact and saving small business is very top of mind."

That's good news for entrepreneurs who can find a way to get customers to connect with their purpose or founding story. Leon VanGelder, the VP of small business advertising for music streaming platform Pandora, said that in a survey of 2,000 listeners, more than half of holiday gift-givers planned to shop local. VanGelder pointed to millennials, Gen-Z women, and households with incomes of $100,000 or more as the key groups most likely to shop local.

Consumers want to support small businesses — you just have to meet them where they are

Given the loss, uncertainty, and tragedy that have marked 2020, experts argue that just as one day in the year doesn't define a company's success, one unofficial holiday is no longer the key to making your end-of-year sales. For many, Small Business Saturday is a symbol of the season on which they pin their hopes of meeting revenue goals. 

Ann Cantrell of Annie's Blue Ribbon General Store in Brooklyn, New York, said 37% of her 2019 sales came in the last two months of the year. Kaylin Marcotte of JIGGY Puzzles and Jelani Memory of A Kids Book About in Portland, Oregon, both expect to make a third of their 2020 revenue in that time. For Ali Rose of Genusee Eyewear in Flint, Michigan, it's nearly half.

Despite all the changes in 2020, the NRF expects total US retail sales to grow between 3.6% and 5.2% in November and December, compared to a 3.5% average increase over the past five years. Even for business owners desparate to attract customers this year, it's not the time to slash prices on everything in the store, said Fred Hurvitz, a marketing professor at Pennsylvania State University. That's because he expects to see more people stick to necessities this holiday season.

"People don't have to make those purchases," he said. "Anything that's discretionary will probably be put on hold." 

Even for the smallest businesses, experts agree there is one strategy entrepreneurs can employ to protect themselves: Sell wherever possible. 

Tal Zvi Nathanel

"If you don't have online offerings for people, you're in trouble," Prisinzano said. 

Penn State marketing professor Fred Hurvitz expects omni-channel businesses with multiple purchasing and payment options will see the best holiday sales.

Showfields is just one example of a business taking such an approach, offering contactless payment, an app that enhances customers' in-store experience, virtual online tours, an ecommerce site, and curbside pickup.

Nathanel said the pandemic has provided his business with an excuse to innovate. For example, Showfields' Magic Wand app escorts customers through its store and gallery, and presents a mobile payment screen at checkout.

"It pushed us to redefine many things we know how to do very well physically," he said, "and try to figure out if there are other ways to do that."

Emily Canal also contributed reporting for this story.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Trump’s overinflated macho persona could spark international problems in the waning days of his presidency.

donlad trump
President Donald Trump.
  • We are entering the waning days of the Trump presidency.
  • But just because Trump is about to be kicked out of the White House doesn't mean he can't cause problems on the way out.
  • Trump is looking to bolster his macho, strongman reputation after his electoral loss and that means he could look to flex his muscles as Commander in Chief in his last months as president.
  • Brett Bruen was the director of global engagement in the Obama White House and a career American diplomat. He runs the crisis-communications agency Global Situation Room.
  • This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

The president has had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year. 

Donald Trump's management of COVID-19 only served to exacerbate the pandemic. As a result, the economy collapsed. Faced with unprecedented outrage over racial injustice, he has worsened the country's wounds. Then there was the election he lost to President-elect Joe Biden.

Given the magnitude of this mess - mostly of his own creation or exacerbation, Trump desperately needs to strengthen his standing before leaving office.

His undemocratic efforts to overturn the results are not bearing fruit. Instead, it just looks like a whole lot of sour grapes. The legal flailing makes him look weak, which is a very uncomfortable place for such a fragile fellow. Something has to be done before he leaves office to shore up his macho image, especially as he eyes another run in 2024.

He begrudgingly acknowledged reality this week, in his own way.  He did not just lose one election, he lost over three dozen lawsuits and support of key Republicans.  In some ways, this precarious political position increases the likelihood that he could take extreme steps to boost his now badly blemished brand.

Trump is already trying to undermine Joe Biden

 A key part of Trump's strategy is aimed at weakening Biden even before he takes office. Delegitimizing him is only stage one. We are already seeing attempts to saddle him with so many problems, he cannot hope to make much progress. There appears to be little regard for the considerable consequences it creates for our country.

This "salt the Earth" strategy has played out through the Trump administration's lack of effort to stem the spread of COVID-19. Trump has done nothing to assist the millions of Americans who have borne the brunt of the economic crisis — and the Treasury Department is now actively undermining programs designed to help the economy. He is recklessly pulling our troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan, emboldening the Taliban and the Islamic State. 

All of these moves add up to a simple fact: the next several weeks are very likely to be the most dangerous of his presidency.

The worst case scenario: a truly belligerent Trump

Enter the even more worrying possibility he could manufacture or muddle into a foreign crisis. After years of national security negligence, there are certainly no shortage of scary scenarios. 

According to recent reports the president was actively exploring options against Tehran. 

China is always atop his list of rhetorical and real targets. Trump is also reportedly weighing options on how to go after Beijing before leaving office  In the past he has threatened to invade Venezuela and relations with Cuba have certainly worsened.

Just like in the movie Wag the Dog, a manufactured or provoked international crisis, would allow Trump to brandish his Commander in Chief credentials before walking out of the White House. He would be able to launch the first strike and reap the reputational benefits of appearing "strong" without having to manage the follow up and fallout.

President Biden would then be handed a difficult deck. Withdrawing would be challenging, while the political and security consequences of staying the course would be high. Meanwhile, the former president will be tweeting constant criticism from the sidelines.

In the event that Trump takes some sort of unilateral action, it is unlikely he could convince many or any countries to join a coalition. The United States might well witness an unprecedented response from the international community. We are talking about other nations cutting off diplomatic relations and even sanctions against our country, along with American companies. The political, economic, and security consequences would be considerable.

A check on a dangerous lame duck

Trump has proven his willingness to break traditions and even laws to further his personal and political goals. Using the White House and official acts like a citizenship ceremony for his party's national convention were obscene and obviously a violation of the rules. Yet, no one stepped in to stop him. We now have to be prepared that he is willing to go much farther. 

So how do we stop it from happening? It's critical that our leaders especially those on the Republican side of the aisle are vigilant and very directly trying to dissuade the president from pursuing such a path. This is their chance to redeem themselves from their shameful silence on who won the presidential elections.  The press and pundits need to try and put any concerns or claims of a crisis in context. We need to avoid the echo chamber effects that have led us into ill-advised conflicts in the past. 

Trump has often treated the military as a political prop. They are useful for parades and portraying himself as a strong leader. Yet, his alleged comments to aides, along with similar prior remarks, deriding the service and sacrifice of our troops belies an astounding lack of respect. 

While almost any other president would think long and hard before sending American soldiers into harm's way, this one would not. He sees them as little more than "losers" and "suckers" who should fight for his political life. That is what makes the next weeks so scary.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Some masks offer far less coronavirus protection than others. Bandanas, scarves, and shields do an especially bad job.

Face mask
A good mask should be tightly sealed around the nose and mouth.
  • Any face mask is better than none, but some face coverings — especially bandanas, scarves, and shields —aren't very good at filtering coronavirus particles.
  • Masks with one-way valves also do a poor job of protecting others.
  • The ranking below reveals the best and worst face masks based on the findings of scientific studies.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Wearing a face mask has never been more necessary: The US's weekly average of coronavirus cases has reached an all-time high of more than 172,000 per day. Hospitalizations are also peaking at a weekly average of nearly 85,000 per day.

A model from the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation predicts that around 212,000 more people could die of COVID-19 from now until March. But if 95% of the country were to wear masks, the model shows, roughly 65,000 of those lives could be spared.

That estimate is based on research from 41 scientific papers, which together suggest that cloth masks — whether homemade or commercially manufactured — can reduce respiratory virus infections among mask-wearers by one-third relative to those without masks.

Indeed, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently updated its guidelines to note that masks offer some protection for the wearer as well as those around you.

"If you're not wearing a mask, if you're not protecting yourself from droplet transmission, you are becoming part of the potential chain of transmission," Rachel Graham, an assistant epidemiology professor at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, told Business Insider.

But some face coverings, especially bandanas or scarves, aren't great at filtering respiratory particles. Masks with one-way valves, meanwhile, do a poor job of protecting other,s since they can can expel infectious particles into the surrounding air. That's why the CDC cautions people not to wear them.

Mask rankings 03

Avoid bandanas and scarves whenever possible

Bandanas and scarves have performed poorly in multiple studies.

In September, Duke researchers found that bandanas reduced the rate of respiratory droplet transmission by a factor of two during normal speech. That makes them less protective than most other materials, including homemade cotton masks.

June study published in the Journal of Hospital Infection similarly found that a scarf reduced a person's infection risk by 44% after they shared a room with an infected person for 30 seconds. After a full 20 minutes of exposure, the scarf only reduced infection risk by 24%.

The reason is no surprise: Bandanas and scarves aren't tightly sealed around the nose and mouth. That means respiratory droplets can leak out the top or bottom and go on to infect another person.

"Snug-fitting masks made of cotton-polyester blends will generally offer more protection," Scott Gottlieb, the former head of the FDA, recently wrote in The Wall Street Journal. "But even a very good cloth mask may only be about 30% protective; scarf or bandanna, 10% or less."

bandana face mask
Kevin Houston uses a bandana to cover his face on April 23, 2020, in Evanston, Illinois.

Face shields aren't a replacement for masks

Face shields can offer a false sense of security. After a July outbreak at a hotel in Switzerland, health officials found that the only people who got sick had worn plastic face shields. Those who wore masks or a combination of a mask and shield were not infected.

The CDC also says face shields aren't a substitute for cloth masks. 

"Face shields have large gaps below and alongside the face, where your respiratory droplets may escape and reach others around you," the agency's website reads. "At this time, we do not know how much protection a face shield provides to people around you."

Face shield bar
A waiter wearing a face shield prepares beers to be served in Valencia, Spain.

But wearing a shield along with a mask could help protect your eyes. Eyes aren't the main source of coronavirus transmission — people usually get infected via droplets that enter their nose or mouth — the virus can enter the body through any mucous membrane.

A June review in The Lancet found that when it comes to preventing coronavirus transmission, "eye protection is typically under-considered and can be effective in community settings."

Single-layer masks aren't ideal, either

The World Health Organization recommends fabric masks with three layers: an inner layer that absorbs, a middle layer that filters, and an outer layer made from a nonabsorbent material like polyester.

Even two layers are more protective than just one. Studies have shown that face coverings made from a single cotton T-shirt are far less protective than masks with multiple layers. Fabrics that aren't tightly woven — such as dishcloths, tea towels, or any knitted material — can also allow virus droplets to pass in and out.

"If a cloth mask is all you can find, buy a thick one," Gottlieb recommended.

Still, any mask is better than none. Some research even suggests that face masks may help reduce viral inoculum: the dose of virus that people ingest or inhale. When people are exposed to a lower dose, it's possible that their immune system might not react as aggressively, resulting in milder symptoms, according to research from Wayne State University.

In September, CDC Director Robert Redfield called face masks "the most important, powerful public health tool we have."

Read the original article on Business Insider