Sorry, Virginia, there will be no Santa at Macy’s

Discussion
Photo: Getty Images/littleny
Nov 03, 2020

For the first time since 1861, Santa will not be greeting kids at Macy’s New York City flagship due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The department store giant, which had a starring role in the 1947 classic film, “Miracle on 34th Street,” said more than a quarter of a million customers come to see Santa at Macy’s in New York each year, making the situation difficult to safely socially distance. Macy’s Chicago and San Francisco are also eliminating in-store Santalands.

Instead, Macy’s will be introducing Macy’s Santaland at Home, an online experience from Nov. 27 through Dec. 24, where families can play games, get a virtual tour of Santa’s village and workshop and take a virtual selfie with old Saint Nick.

Many malls are also offering virtual options that promise a wide range of interactivity, enriched content and a higher level of personalization. JingleRing, a new service supporting virtual Santa visits, enables parents to choose the language Santa speaks, his ethnicity, whether they want a “faith-based” visit, or one in which Santa reads kids a story or brings Mrs. Claus.

Sorry, Virginia, there will be no Santa at Macy’s
Source: macys.com/social/santa-land

But many malls are offering in-store Santa options, as well, taking numerous precautions, including bans on lap-sitting and keeping Santa six feet away behind Plexiglass. At some places, Santa will sit outside in a heated sleigh.

Malls are helping to manage traffic by offering reserved spots and extended hours. In most cases, Santa wears a mask and customers follow local mandates. Still, some Santas are reluctant to attend in-person visits because they’re in a higher-risk group due to their age and weight, according to USA Today.

Bass Pro, which is only having in-store Santas, cited research showing 92 percent of U.S. parents with children under the age of 10 want to preserve holiday traditions. Three in five say they are comfortable taking their kids to see Santa if safety protocols are in place.

“With countless activities cancelled and many families dealing with added stress, we feel it’s more important than ever to provide some free Christmas magic and help safely create cherished holiday memories,” said Bass Pro founder Johnny Morris in a statement.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Did Macy’s make the right move to forego in-person Santa Claus visits in its flagship stores? Do you see more benefits or risks in stores or malls having in-store Santa visits?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"The pandemic is still here, so Santa isn’t. End of story."
"Save the magical thinking for the debate about whether Santa exists, not about whether you can safely crowd people into your store right now."
"Who knows? We might discover additional ways to celebrate Santa that we will want to keep once the pandemic ends."

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27 Comments on "Sorry, Virginia, there will be no Santa at Macy’s"


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Neil Saunders
BrainTrust

Given the crowds at some Macy’s stores for this, on health grounds the decision to end in-person Santas makes sense. Ultimately, each retailer needs to assess risks and make decisions based on that. That said, regardless of the reasons for the decision, the lack of a Santa has potential to reduce the appeal of Macy’s stores at a time when they desperately need the footfall.

Mark Ryski
BrainTrust

Even Santa is being disrupted by the pandemic! Health and safety must come first, and so I admire the difficult decision Macy’s management had to make regarding their holiday season plans and traditions. Given how challenging Macy’s own financial situation is, they can least afford to curtail store traffic, so the decision to scale down holiday festivities is even more difficult.

Gary Sankary
BrainTrust

This is going to be a season of creative marketing. Making visits with Santa virtual is just one more example of where retailers are going to find creative ways to give their customers the experiences they want, safely.

Peter Messana
Guest
10 months 20 days ago

I’m with Basspro and the 92 percent of the parents that don’t want to further destroy our children’s lives. They have been through enough that likely we will see shifts in anxiety, depression, and isolation in the future — let the kids enjoy their life. A wave to Santa will put a smile on a kid’s face in a time of dark clouds. Oh yeah, and Macy’s can’t afford to be turning away traffic, but that’s slightly different.

Lee Peterson
BrainTrust

Ok, there’s logic and then there’s emotion (some say brand), and this leans way too far on the logical end to me. Since 1861? I think you have to figure that one out.

Gene Detroyer
BrainTrust

Logic: wear a mask. Emotion: it is my personal choice.

Bob Phibbs
BrainTrust

I’m with Bass Pro on this. I’ll bet there could have been dozens of new creative ways to have done this if they had enlisted CAMP or hadn’t gotten rid of Rachel Shechtman. The whole point of visiting Santa was to believe he was real. This is a big miss for Macy’s. #SantaOnAScreenIsNotTheSame

Ryan Grogman
BrainTrust

I feel like there could have been creative ways to maintain the physical presence of Santa in a healthy and safe manner. Be it the plexiglass option that was mentioned in the article, or perhaps having him safely cordoned off but still able to wave to children. If anything, young children being able to see “the real Santa” wearing a mask and practicing social distancing would help reinforce for them that we’re all in this together but can still live our lives safely.

George Anderson
Staff
The U.S. is setting daily records for new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations with the vast majority of the country posting spikes. Yesterday, there were over 93,000 cases reported. Over the past week, there has been an average of 85,563 cases per day. That’s a 44 percent increase from two weeks earlier. The percentage increase in deaths has grown 13 percent during that time. More than 800 people are dying every day and the numbers just keep going up as the weather gets colder and Americans move indoors. We still, however, have people from the White House to every state in the nation who continue to act out in public suggesting that the very people trying to save their lives are making it up, profiteering or engaging in a violation of the civil liberties of others. There’s no doubt that kids have borne much, if not most, of the brunt of this pandemic. While we are often quick to point out the loss of everyday things such as going to school, altered Halloween plans, no mall… Read more »
Ryan Grogman
BrainTrust

Well said George. Whereas I was only advocating for options where all recommended safety protocols (social distancing, masks, a cleansed environment, etc.) could be put in place, the sheer fact that Santa’s presence will drive additional crowds in an already crowded location could be inviting unnecessary danger to the situation.

Ricardo Belmar
BrainTrust

Well said, George. While attempts could be made to try and create a safe environment for visiting Santa, what child wants to do this from 6 feet away and on the other side of a plexiglass barrier after waiting for hours in a socially distanced line. As a parent, I’d have a tough time explaining that situation to my child who is probably going to ask me, “isn’t Santa safe from COVID in the North Pole?” Best to leave that one alone, I think.

Creative virtual Santa visits are a necessity and sign of the world we are living in during 2020. It’s no one’s first choice, for sure, but when the pandemic is getting worse, not better, by the day, we all have to make the safest decisions possible. Macy’s is no exception — and I have to believe this was one of the more painful decisions their execs had to make this holiday season.

Georganne Bender
BrainTrust

Macy’s is being extremely careful with its Christmas offerings and I think that is smart. The retailer is still giving us a parade and a Santa experience, both virtually. Sure it’s not ideal but Macy’s is trying to deliver the holiday traditions safely. Imagine if it didn’t and an outbreak was traced back to Macy’s?

Kids can still visit Santa in person at Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s this year but he will be safely ensconced behind plexiglass. Kind of like a diorama. Or the zoo. It’s creative but is it the right thing to do as COVID-19 numbers continue to rise?

Craig Sundstrom
Guest

“Mommy, why is Santa in jail? Is it ‘cuz he didn’t bring me what I wanted last year?”

Georganne Bender
BrainTrust

Santaquarium. LOL

Ricardo Belmar
BrainTrust

For many kids, just seeing Santa under those conditions would likely lead to more questions than answers. I can envision one of my kids telling me “Santa should be safe from the virus because he has magical powers — why is he behind the plastic wall?” And the questions would just get tougher from there!

Georganne Bender
BrainTrust

That’s brilliant. Santa IS magic, why would he need plexiglass?

Richard Hernandez
BrainTrust
Richard Hernandez
Director, Main Street Markets
10 months 20 days ago

In all my time as a child and since, I have never know a time where kids were not able to see Santa but I understand why this is necessary and hope parents can make other arrangements (a virtual Santa experience) so at least children can have something they believe in.

Rick Moss
Staff

I understand why many are disappointed and feel like Macy’s could set up proper safety protocols to keep the tradition alive, but I believe it’s more about traffic control. Macy’s Herald Square gets crazy crowded during the holiday season, and that’s simply not a tradition that is acceptable right now to most New Yorkers with COVID-19 infections on the upswing again. It think it’s a responsible move by Macy’s and I appreciate that they are prioritizing their customers’ and workers’ health over profits.

Gene Detroyer
BrainTrust

I hope they didn’t spend more than five minutes making this decision.

Dave Bruno
BrainTrust

Call me Ebeneezer Scrooge if you will, but I respect Macy’s obviously difficult decision to put safety first. Most of the comments thus far have expressed frustration with Macy’s for denying kids a chance to see Santa in person. While I respect those sentiments, I more admire Macy’s willingness to take action that adds further jeopardy to their Q4/holiday results. I feel like this decision is in keeping with the “do the right thing” spirit of Miracle on 34th Street, and I hope that doing the right thing by minimizing risks to kids, parents, store associates and Santa will ultimately lead to positive business impacts for the real Macy’s today, just as it did for the fictionalized Macy’s in 1947.

Cathy Hotka
BrainTrust

The pandemic is still here, so Santa isn’t. End of story.

Xavier Lederer
BrainTrust

Good point indeed. The pandemic has forced us to adopt new habits that in some cases have proven to be better than our old habits. Who knows? We might discover additional ways to celebrate Santa that we will want to keep once the pandemic ends.

Dick Seesel
BrainTrust

Of course the vast majority of American households want to preserve holiday traditions, but that doesn’t make the Bass Pro Shops decision correct. There has been too much “magical thinking” around COVID-19, and not enough safety — which would help explain our current situation. Save the magical thinking for the debate about whether Santa exists, not about whether you can safely crowd people into your store right now.

Rich Kizer
BrainTrust

Kudos to Macy’s. It shows that they seriously care about their customers by putting
them above the commercial aspect of the business. A tough, but right, decision.

Mel Kleiman
BrainTrust
10 months 20 days ago

I vote to keep Santa. If we can send kids back to school, we can take them to see Santa. Take precautions, but keep the tradition. Those who take advantage will appreciate it and will be spending more in the store. Those who don’t want to have the option not to take advantage of the opportunity.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest

🙁 And the kids … they’ve been so good this year, too!

Of course this was the right decision: the conditions under which this would have to proceed — no contact, plexiglass, temp checks — would have only added to (and let’s be candid here) what is already a rather stressful event for many children. (I’m old enough to remember when Capwell’s had Santa in their main display window, and though I survived, still “what were they thinking?”)

The youngest won’t miss something they don’t know, and for the older, it’s a chance to quietly participate in adult activities … or non-activities, as it were.

William Passodelis
Guest

This was the correct decision this year given the pandemic and the difficulty of the situation overall. Customer safety is utmost. Having said that, Macy’s should not try and use it to set precedence for the future. I am certain they are happy for the very small savings they gain in not conducting this outlay. This is a short-sighted vision and their inability to understand, and utilize, the theater of retail is part of the reason they are in the situation that they find themselves.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"The pandemic is still here, so Santa isn’t. End of story."
"Save the magical thinking for the debate about whether Santa exists, not about whether you can safely crowd people into your store right now."
"Who knows? We might discover additional ways to celebrate Santa that we will want to keep once the pandemic ends."

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