LIMA — Consumers can expect strange sights and new twists on popular holiday traditions as retailers adapt to a pandemic: Zoom calls with Santa. Gentle reminders to wear a mask and stay socially distant from other shoppers. And more prominent sanitation as retailers try to ease customers’ fears about shopping indoors during their busiest season.
When Santa returns to the Lima Mall, families will still have the chance to take socially distanced photos. But families are encouraged to register early to avoid crowding, and the mall is promoting virtual meet and greets with Santa this year to keep kids and families safe.
Chris Garlock, general manager for the Lima Mall, said the visits with Santa are a nostalgic holiday tradition for many children and families here, which prompted the mall to look for ways to keep the tradition alive.
“We’re thrilled to be able to bring a bit of normalcy and holiday magic to our community, while keeping health and safety as our top priority,” he said.
Will the recession affect consumer spending?
The sudden recession that took hold across the U.S. in March still lingers, as more than 250,000 Ohioans remain out of work and thousands of others have stopped looking for new work entirely.
Those trends led 31% of Ohioans surveyed by data analytics firm What If Media Group to say they plan to spend less on the holidays this year. But a clear majority of the 770 Ohioans surveyed said they plan to spend about the same or more on the holidays than they did the previous year, suggesting Ohioans are more confident that the economy will recover soon than Americans generally.
Will Black Friday look the same?
The popularity of retail holidays like Black Friday has been falling for years, as more Americans turn to the Internet or start their holiday shopping early to avoid the crowds. The pandemic is unlikely to change that trend.
A recent survey from Deloitte found that 47% of consumers don’t plan to shop Black Friday, Cyber Monday or other retail holiday events at all.
Retailers have responded by opening their Black Friday sales online days or even weeks in advance, and marking down prices in-store across several days in November to attract more shoppers who are looking for gifts early or who want to avoid crowds because of the pandemic.
Walmart, for example, will still open its stores at 5 a.m. Nov. 27. But the superstore is also offering curbside pickup on Black Friday for shoppers who ordered online and started its Black Friday sales earlier this month.
“Consumers have welcomed the longer shopping season, where many retailers have chosen to offer deals before and leading up to the traditional Thanksgiving and Black Friday doorbusters,” said Phil Rist, executive vice president of strategy for consumer data firm Prosper Insights and Analytics. “These additional offerings translate to more options for holiday shoppers in the long run.”