Contactless Santa and Virtual Holidays: How malls are preparing for Christmas



American shopping centers are adjusting to the new realities but are not canceling the celebrations.
Christmas Tree Depositphotos

The pandemic of 2020 has made adjustments to the daily lives of everyone. Next in line is the first-ever New Year's Eve meeting, which will be held under pressure from all kinds of bans and restrictions and people's fear of getting infected with the virus. But this will not stop millions of people worldwide from visiting their favorite shopping centers on the eve of the holidays. 

In the U.S., the largest malls are beginning a new way of preparing for New Year's and Christmas, developing unprecedented security measures, and even transferring several popular traditions into contactless or virtual environments. 

According to a recent poll, only 45 percent of Americans plan to visit malls on Christmas Eve this year. For comparison, in December 2019, the share of consumers who were unable to refuse to visit shopping malls on the holidays was 64%. 

And yet, despite the fall in traffic, malls miss the opportunity to earn extra money during the holidays in the most challenging year for the industry. Many shopping malls and department stores are preparing new programs, the analogs of which never existed before. 

Bass Pro Shops will not refuse Santa's invitation to talk to children and their parents. Still, the main Christmas character this year will meet guests at a protective screen made of plexiglass. Macy's is preparing to provide its own online congratulations service and virtual contact with Santa. In addition to the traditional Santaland this year for the first time being virtual, Santa will not visit department stores in previous years. 

In the International Brotherhood of Real Bearded Santas organization, it is noted that although the experience this year will be significantly different from usual. About two thousand members of the organization are preparing to visit children in shopping centers, hospitals, schools, and homes on the eve of the holidays. The most popular event this year will be "virtual visits." 

As for shopping centers, in anticipation of the influx of buyers in the pre-New Year period, they are preparing to strengthen security measures. Malls already prepared protective screens, face masks, sanitizers, and thermal imaging cameras. Mall owners note that the requirement to wear masks this year will be mandatory for all Santas, regardless of rules established by the local authorities in each state. Organizers of Holiday events will ask guests to make reservations for entertainment, some of which will be held outdoors. 

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