How Santa is Helping Retailers in the Pandemic

Even before ecommerce became such a large and important part of the holiday shopping season, retailers would use Santa as a way of drawing shoppers into their stores. As Amazon and other online platforms started eating up a major portion of holiday sales, live Christmas-themed experiences have remained a really useful marketing tool for driving customers to visit stores in person to cross items off their wish lists. Now that the pandemic has had such a severe impact on the way that consumers shop this year (and has also shrunk shopping budgets for many families), retailers are getting creative with the way that they use Santa to connect with shoppers.


Santa is Fulfilling Curbside Orders for Neiman Marcus

Santa himself will be delivering curbside pickup orders for the luxury retailer Neiman Marcus every Saturday until Christmas, and the company is also booking appointments for virtual visits from St. Nick featuring a personalized video call.

As a way of bringing the luxury holiday shopping experience to remote customers, Neiman Marcus has also launched a virtual gift advisor program. This allows users to take a quiz and be paired with a personal shopping assistant that can call or text them individualized gift recommendations. Users that participate in this service will also receive champagne and chocolate chip cookies in the mail, which is a unique idea to differentiate their virtual shopping experience beyond standard UI upgrades.


Malls are Putting Santa Behind Plexiglass

Malls that have struggled with foot traffic throughout the pandemic are hoping that Santa can still make their shopping centers into family destinations. This year, both Santa and his visitors will have to wear masks, and many malls are putting a plexiglass shield between them.

“Santa is the magnet that attracts people to malls and without that attraction, malls will struggle more to generate foot traffic,” said Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData Retail. According to Saunders, over 10 million American households visited Santa in a mall or retail store in 2019, and almost 73% of these visitors also made purchases at nearby stores or restaurants.


Kids Can Send Letters to Santa via Nordstrom’s “Festive Experiences” Microsite

Nordstrom’s new microsite features email templates and printable “Dear Santa” sheets for children to send Santa their Christmas wish lists. As long as letters are received on time, Nordstrom is promising that Santa will even send out replies before Christmas day.  

Like Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom is also offering virtual calls with Santa, as well as holiday breakfasts with Santa at select store locations. In addition to letters for Santa, the retailer’s microsite also offers a portal to “make merry at home” with festive activity sheets, craft tutorials, and a virtual photobooth for users to take Christmas-themed portraits.

Retailers will really have to get creative this year in order to deliver holiday magic to shoppers. Fun experiences with Santa have played a huge role in driving traffic to retailers for years, and companies will have to use a mix of safe in-person experiences and innovative digital initiatives in order to be competitive this December.  

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