COVID-19

For retailers this year, a holiday decorating dilemma

Andy Uhler Nov 24, 2020
Heard on: Marketplace Morning Report
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A festive window display at Macy's Herald Square in New York on Thursday. Will retailers direct more resources to e-commerce this holiday season? Eugene Gologursky/Getty Images for Macy's
COVID-19

For retailers this year, a holiday decorating dilemma

Andy Uhler Nov 24, 2020
A festive window display at Macy's Herald Square in New York on Thursday. Will retailers direct more resources to e-commerce this holiday season? Eugene Gologursky/Getty Images for Macy's
HTML EMBED:
COPY

In a normal year, retailers would be dressing up their stores with holiday-themed window scenes, lights and all the trimmings. 

But this year, with a pandemic, new lockdowns and people ordering online instead of making in-store gift buying a family excursion, what are stores to do?

Decorating a store for the holidays takes time and money. Bob Phibbs, who runs the Retail Doctor consultancy, said businesses are, generally, of two minds about it this year.

“Independents seem to be going stronger with nurturing the customer wonder and amazement,” he said. Think Will Ferrell’s decoration extravaganza in the movie “Elf.”

Other retailers are going cheap and “saying, ‘Oh, people aren’t gonna be here anyway. What difference does it make?’ ” Phibbs said.

Usually, it would make a lot of difference, said branding consultant Denise Lee Yohn. She said decorations help get shoppers in the holiday spirit. But during a pandemic, store owners are grappling with a new question: “Are we being responsible by attracting people to our locations?”

In lieu of big displays, she said, many retailers are diverting resources to giving consumers a virtual holiday experience and making sure their search functions and e-commerce platforms can handle the heavy load.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

What are the details of President Joe Biden’s coronavirus relief plan?

The $1.9 trillion plan would aim to speed up the vaccine rollout and provide financial help to individuals, states and local governments and businesses. Called the “American Rescue Plan,” the legislative proposal would meet Biden’s goal of administering 100 million vaccines by the 100th day of his administration, while advancing his objective of reopening most schools by the spring. It would also include $1,400 checks for most Americans. Get the rest of the specifics here.

What kind of help can small businesses get right now?

A new round of Paycheck Protection Program loans recently became available for pandemic-ravaged businesses. These loans don’t have to be paid back if rules are met. Right now, loans are open for first-time applicants. And the application has to go through community banking organizations — no big banks, for now, at least. This rollout is designed to help business owners who couldn’t get a PPP loan before.

What does the hiring situation in the U.S. look like as we enter the new year?

New data on job openings and postings provide a glimpse of what to expect in the job market in the coming weeks and months. This time of year typically sees a spike in hiring and job-search activity, says Jill Chapman with Insperity, a recruiting services firm. But that kind of optimistic planning for the future isn’t really the vibe these days. Job postings have been lagging on the job search site Indeed. Listings were down about 11% in December compared to a year earlier.

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