New York (Trends Wide Business) – It’s starting to look a lot like pre-pandemic Christmas, with malls and stores bringing back tree lighting ceremonies, carol singers, and a less socially distanced Santa this year.
Photos with Santa Claus, an annual Christmas tradition for many families, were altered last year by the pandemic.
Some businesses that normally host Santa Claus visits in person decided to forgo the event entirely. Others made changes – like putting Santa behind Plexiglass, or zooming in with Santa on a large digital screen – that likely resulted in awkward family photos.
But that was in 2020.
Retailers and mall operators are eager to return Christmas shoppers to a more family-friendly celebration experience in the run-up to Christmas.
They are starting with visits from Santa Claus in person.
Perhaps no other Saint Nicholas is as iconic as Macy’s Santa Claus, who has been appearing in person since 1861, with the exception of last year.
Macy’s brings back Santa Claus this year at Santalandia events in Chicago, San Francisco and at its Herald Square flagship store in New York.
However, this year Macy’s will maintain a non-contact and detached visit. The retailer said it will follow each city’s protocols on whether or not to wear masks indoors.
Cherry Hill Programs, the leading provider of shopping mall photography and Santa Claus events across the country, is hosting more than 672 Santa Claus events in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico this year, including at Simon-managed shopping centers. Properties, the largest shopping center operator in the United States.
Chris Landtroop, vice president of marketing for Cherry Hill Programs, said their Santas are vaccinated unless exempted for medical or religious reasons, in which case they will undergo weekly testing and their staff at events will also adhere to local guidelines on masks.
Brookfield Properties, a subsidiary of Brookfield Asset Management and the nation’s second-largest shopping center operator, said Santa will be in 117 of its 130 shopping centers. It will hit 23 of those malls on Friday.
Santa’s visits will once again be a more traditional experience where families have the option of having children sit on Santa’s lap to chat and take photos, said Katie Kurtz, senior vice president of business development for Brookfield Properties . “Shopping malls have a magical feel at this time of year and we want to go back to it,” he said.
Kurtz said that families who want to remain physically estranged will also have that option. The company is adhering to local mask mandates for each mall location.
Mall operator PREIT, which owns 19 malls primarily on the East Coast, including the Cherry Hill Mall in New Jersey and the Willow Grove Mall in Pennsylvania, put Santa Claus behind Plexiglass last year in every mall. .
This month, Santa is back in a red fire truck at PREIT shopping malls and he will not be behind a barrier for greetings. PREIT said that all of their Santas are vaccinated and the children will have the option of sitting on their lap to take pictures.
PREIT is also following local mask mandates for visits to the mall.
With about 68% of the total U.S. population having received at least one dose of the covid-19 vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), some shopping centers are celebrating more elaborate Christmas events.
Last year, Tanger Factory Outlets organized remote Santa visits for their shoppers. This Christmas season, he will once again bring Santa Claus in person to more than 20 of his outlet centers. In addition to the photographic sessions, Santa Claus will be present at the lighting of the tree and at the breakfasts with Santa Claus.
“We also have a fun Shelf Elf scavenger hunt planned in which we have placed the elves in our centers, some inside stores or at the food court,” said Stephen Yalof, President and CEO of Tanger Outlets. , which operates 36 luxury shopping centers.
This year, Tanger is hosting several Christmas tree lighting events in lieu of one big event at five of its centers. Yalof said it is a way to avoid a large congregation of people and also to make shoppers return more than once to their malls.
Bringing people back to the mall
Bringing back Santa Claus is a smart move, said Barbara Kahn, a marketing professor at the Wharton School.
“All these Christmas events that retailers plan are aimed at boosting consumption,” says Kahn. “Now, after the covid, malls and stores are trying to attract shoppers so that they feel comfortable shopping in person again, rather than online.”
For retailers, there are advantages to shopping in the store, he said. “There is a coincidence. Buyers tend to buy more on impulse in stores.” And with online purchases, product returns tend to be higher, which can be expensive for retailers, he added.