As COVID-19 cases climb again in North Texas, big box stores like Target and Walmart are promoting their curbside pickup options for online orders this holiday shopping season.
Many locally-owned North Texas stores are offering the same service along with virtual and appointment shopping as small businesses adapt to meet the needs of customers during a critical time of year.
At Froggies 5 & 10 in Dallas, employees are decked out in masks and prepared to help customers pick out gifts, toys and magic tricks for holiday shoppers – in-store or from home.
The latest news from around North Texas.
“I can definitely help you over the phone,” said manager Chase Bilbrey. “Sometimes, FaceTiming with customers to let them know what we’ve got and they’ll come by and just pick it up. Pop the trunk and we put it in there for them, take care of the payment over the phone.”
“We’ve been really trying to go out of our way to accommodate everyone,” said Denise Manoy, owner of Indigo 1745 in the Bishop Arts neighborhood of Dallas.
Manoy said she is helping customers shop over the phone or in virtual appointments. For customers who come in, the store added a wide range of cleaning protocols that include spraying down clothes, setting them aside and steaming them between try-ons.
“We're just trying to keep ourselves and our customers safe,” said Manoy.
“We want this place to be a little bit of happy when you come in, a little bit of happy if you're over the phone and a little bit of happy over a video call. Our job is to kind of take you away from the world out there,” added Manoy.
The world is seeing disrupted supply chains and warnings about shipping delays. That’s part of the reason you see major retailers expanding traditional Black Friday sales over the course of several weeks - hoping to entice customers to shop early and avoid logistical problems closer to Christmas.
But logistical issues may also spell opportunity for locally-owned stores like Gifted in Fort Worth. Esther Miller said the store has expanded its digital footprint to boost online sales and created one-on-one in-store shopping appointments for customers.
“We already are very accommodating to our customers, but we are now offering curbside, we do appointment-only shopping for immunocompromised people or anybody who doesn't feel safe being around other people. We have a small shop, but we've limited our capacity for when people are in the store and we have a waiting system is there are too many people here,” said Miller.
This year, especially, Miller said customers are on the hunt for personal and meaningful gifts that support artists and local businesses.
Some research this year backs that up.
JLL surveyed 1,089 U.S. consumers online in September and reports the average customer expected their holiday budget would decrease by 20% this year over last year. However, more than 25% planned to shop local.
Respondents in a Google survey reported as many as 66% of shoppers intend to buy from small businesses this year.
“I think it's important to shop local because it's my husband, myself, our newborn," said Kate Jones, owner of Fair and Square Imports in downtown McKinney. “We have two full-time employees, we have four part-time employees that all live in the area, that every purchase supports.”
Even in non-pandemic times, the National Retail Federation says holiday sales make up about 20% of retail sales for the whole year. This year, the stakes are even higher. Many stores in Texas, those deemed non-essential, closed from mid-March to April 24 when they were allowed to initially offer curbside pickup.
It’s unclear whether the holiday season can make up for the impact of the pandemic, but Jones said her shop is going all-in on Christmas.
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