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Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Holiday shopping season has arrived, but is it back?

The pandemic is not over yet, but with the help of vaccinations and Covid-19-related precautions, Santa Claus is feeling much better about to come to town this year.

Stephen Arnold, president of the International Brotherhood of Real Bearded Santa Clauses, a trading group of over 1,800 members, showed up at just one tree lighting event last year. It was a frightening time, he said, especially for a group of older men who are often overweight and diabetic.

But this season, Mr. Arnold said all five of his tree lighting ceremonies are back, including a vibrant event he loves at Graceland, Elvis Presley’s estate in Mr. Arnold’s hometown, Memphis. He plans to take part in over 200 performances, which is in line with his pandemic preparation schedule in 2019. He can sometimes act from inside a life-size snow globe, like last year, and a lot of his events will take place virtually, but this is a world beyond 2020.

“I think almost all of our Santa Clauses intend to work a lot harder than last year, and a much larger percentage, probably 65 to 70 percent of us, will return to what we consider a normal schedule,” said 71 -year-old Arnold. “I’m trying to be ready for a season of relatively close contact.”

And so it is as the United States enters into a holiday shopping season that is physically much larger than 2020, but not as carefree as it was before the pandemic. People are more comfortable shopping in stores, but the number of returnees is likely to depend on geographic location, and staff will generally wear masks.

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade was greatly expanded, with more floats and a longer route, although children under 12 were not allowed to participate in the parade itself. The big chains will offer certain celebrations, such as champagne bars, that weren’t there last year. Gift ideas and decorations will be more visible in stores as retailers expect more people to view them and plan larger gatherings.

“We have a lot of energy to get things done,” said Marie Driscoll, managing director of luxury and fashion at Coresight Research, a consulting and research firm. “Everything old is new again.”

But signs of a changed season remained. Many stores are closed for Thanksgiving, and holiday hours at some malls and chains will be cut, in part due to labor shortages in the country. And many people are gearing up for shortages of commodities such as popular toys as “supply chain problems” will become a refrain of 2021. There are also those customers who will stay away from stores due to new habits learned during the pandemic or persistent fears about the virus, and choose to shop online or using pickup trucks at the curb.

Ms Driscoll said the precautionary signs are likely to be seen all over the store. “Retailers do their best to keep everyone comfortable, so you wear a mask on your own, there will be cleaning supplies everywhere, there are self-service options to skip and wait in lines. ,” she said.

The retail industry is still recovering from a sharp drop in in-store shoppers last year. In November and December 2020, department store traffic fell more than 30 percent from the previous year, according to Vince Tibon, senior analyst at Green Street, a real estate analyst firm. However, the picture appears to be improving, with department store traffic down 9 percent in October compared to October 2019.

Jeff Gennett, Macy’s chief executive, said in a recent interview that store traffic has rebounded significantly since 2020, but remained about 19 percent down from 2019. The decline was “steady,” he said, adding that the retailer expected improvement. in 2022

Tom Nolan, chief executive of Kendra Scott, a fashion jewelry company with 119 points of sale, said store visits vary by region.

“The numbers on the northeast and west coast are not the same as in Texas and the southeast,” he said in an interview. Although the network’s sales were strong compared to 2019 or 2020, he noted that for businesses, it provided a boost to businesses as customers went online, especially with family and friends.

According to Meredith Darnall, senior vice president of retail at Brookfield Properties, which controls more than 130 malls, people are much more likely to shop while in a store than browsing its website. “The ability to touch, see and talk to someone about a product is real. They also have additional discounts – you come for a T-shirt, you will probably buy denim. ” The attractiveness of in-store shopping for retailers makes the fact that the return rate is much higher for e-commerce purchases, especially clothes and shoes, she said.

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It looks like a lot of consumers are looking to shop in person this year. The NPD group recently polled over 1,000 people about the holiday traditions they missed the most in 2020 and hope to return by this year. About 36 percent said they missed retail shopping, while 30 percent said they look forward to returning to shopping in malls and the “Thanksgiving and Black Friday frenzy.”

The shopping experience changed radically in the past year as many people avoided lingering in stores and were reluctant to touch and test products. Changing rooms were closed or restricted in many places. The makeup counters did not offer cosmetics or lipstick or perfume samples. Plastic partitions, hand sanitizer, and social distancing reminders graced the landscape. Buyer events have been scaled back or canceled.

This week, Saks Fifth Avenue unveiled a festive showcase and 10-story light show at its flagship store in New York. The retailer, who took hiatus from its annual tradition of closing Fifth Avenue for a musical performance last year, returned to it this year with a New York City Youth Choir and Michelle Obama’s appearance. About 22 Nordstrom stores will have immersive photo booths.

At Bloomingdale’s flagship 59th Street, the store offers fewer events than the 400-plus it hosted in 2019, but far more than in 2020, when its limited outdoor events were held. There will be more food and drink for shoppers this season, including champagne and espresso cups, although they are handled more carefully than in years past. When the store opened its holiday windows this month, there was a Baby Rexa performance in the store, but it lasted approximately 15 minutes and was closely monitored for capacity and placement.

“If you spoke to me in 2019, we would have elaborate spreads with caterers that passed the appetizers and champagne,” said Frank Berman, director of marketing for Bloomingdale. Food is now more likely to be prepackaged and there are fewer activities such as cooking demonstrations.

However, the retailer has recently noted an increase in tourist numbers and a growing willingness of shoppers to spend time shopping, he said.

“When it comes to Covid, they feel safer and you see more of these inspiring purchases, people are going to spend the day in our store,” said Mr Berman. “They’re moving around the store, and it’s not about ‘I need to get this item and get out.’

Compared to last year, there have also been significant shifts in what people buy. Dressy clothes and luggage became popular again as people resumed traveling and socializing. The boom in pet adoption has led to an explosive growth in dog clothing, which is welcome in stores, Mr Berman said.

The impact of technology on physical retail has never been more dramatic. Bloomingdale’s still offers dozens of virtual events in addition to in-store events. According to Coresight’s Ms Driscoll, shoppers now expect to be able to see if products are in stock before they go to stores, and partners will help mail them out for free when they are unavailable.

According to Ms Darnall of Brookfield Properties, Nordstrom is one of the retailers using the space in front of their stores for shelves dedicated to online pickup. Roadside pickup remains popular in malls and other major stores.

As for Santa Claus, Mr. Arnold is as busy as ever as virtual visits add to his personal appearances. Some parents prefer them after last year because the experience can be more magical when the parents are preparing Santa.

“You have so much information, you become so real and have a real conversation,” he said. “Then you stop talking and ask them something, maybe about elves, or deer, or Mrs. Klaus, and what she bakes in the kitchen. From time to time you get a difficult question like, “Can you get Grandpa back?” and you’re trying to get out of it. “

However, this is a year of recovery.

Mr. Arnold’s group, which numbered over 2,000 members last year, shrank after many performers who were unable or unwilling to work in 2020 were unable to renew their membership. Arnold is confident of a steady return next year in time for Atlanta’s International Santa Claus in April, which has been postponed due to the pandemic.

“You will see that most Santa Clauses will feel like they are returning to relatively normal conditions,” he said, adding that he was prepared with his vaccine and booster. “And most of us who are smart enough will be safe.”

World Nation News Deskhttps://www.worldnationnews.com
World Nation News is a digital news portal website. Which provides important and latest breaking news updates to our audience in an effective and efficient ways, like world’s top stories, entertainment, sports, technology and much more news.
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