Santas have Covid concerns, too: How retailers are preparing for the holidays.

Santas have Covid concerns, too: How retailers are preparing for the holidays.

It’s early to be thinking about holiday shopping, unless you are a retailer. In which case it may be all you can think about.

Retailers pummeled by the pandemic have already been making decisions about inventory, staffing and how best to connect with customers skittish about visiting crowded stores during a pandemic. The result will be a holiday season that is transformed in fundamental ways — and is also unlikely to make up for the severe drops in revenue caused by the shutdowns.

Sapna Maheshwari and Gillian Friedman explain how retailers are trying to adapt.

  • Rather than enticing shoppers into stores with holiday sales events, retailers like Walmart and Target recently said they would try to temper the crowds by closing on Thanksgiving Day and putting their best deals online earlier than usual.

  • Instead of conversing with shoppers, many store workers will be spending their time handing off purchases to people who pull up to the curb in their car.

  • A pause is expected on so-called doorbuster deals and the ensuing madness created by crowds rushing into stores for limited discounts. Companies including Hasbro, Target and Macy’s have signaled plans to offer discounts over a longer period, starting as soon as late October. Jeff Gennette, Macy’s chief executive, said in a July earnings call that he expected Black Friday deals “to start in full force after Halloween.”

  • In preparation for customers who are nervous about crowds, Macy’s has been exploring new ways to manage store traffic and rethinking bustling sales events like Black Friday and the 10 days before Christmas, Mr. Gennette said.

As special as the holiday season feels to shoppers, it is crucial for stores. Holiday sales in November and December can bring in 20 percent of a retailer’s annual revenue, and 30 percent of sales for hobby, toy and game stores, while driving tremendous profitability, according to the National Retail Federation.

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