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Boston retailers prepare for holiday shopping season during pandemic

After suffering from major declines in revenue since the pandemic began, Boston businesses will continue implementing services and safety measures to keep customers safe for the holiday shopping season.

Boston businesses are continuing to implement services and safety measures for shoppers in preparation for the holiday season. MAE DAVIS/ DFP FILE

Jamaica Plain toy store Boing! offers curbside pickup and local deliveries. Owner Kim Mitchell said the store has introduced a waitlist for customers to monitor the capacity of the store.

“Everything I’m doing is to try to decrease the amount of time it takes people to find what they want,” Mitchell said.

During the holidays, Boing! will continue offering hand sanitizer and wiping down products if customers touch toys then decide not to purchase them, Mitchell said.

Businesses must prioritize keeping their employees and customers safe as they stay open for the holiday season, said Denise Jillson, the executive director at Harvard Square Business Association.

Retailers will continue to require masks and limit capacity, Jillson said.

“They’ve had a lot of experience, so they will continue to be diligent,” Jillson said. “We hope there will be a bit of an influx of customers.”

Capacity limits are the biggest obstacles to meeting pre-pandemic revenue, Mitchell said.

Nan Liu, an business analytics professor at Boston College’s Carroll School of Management, said customers should shop early or shop online to reduce waiting times and the chance of the virus spreading.

“Five or 10 years ago, you only had Black Friday sales, but now it seems that you have pre-Friday sales, Liu said. “That will definitely help reducing the peaks of customer arrivals to the stores and that may help reducing the spread of the virus.”

Sales have decreased significantly since the pandemic began, said Thien Simpson, executive director of community preservation organization Hyde Park Main Streets.

She said businesses in the Hyde Park neighborhood should have an online presence because the public might be hesitant to shop in person. Gift cards are another option for those uncomfortable with dining or shopping indoors.

Liu said overall business sales may not change significantly this season. While traveling will decrease, people will continue purchasing from retailers.

“If I wanted to buy the gift for my parents, I’m still going to buy it,” Liu said.

Simpson said Hyde Park Main Streets may encourage people to come into the neighborhood’s main square to shop and have fun during the holidays COVID-19 guidelines permitting.

Jillson said she hopes people will shop locally this season to support local businesses that have recently been struggling.

“We have to be able to save our restaurants and the local businesses, retailers,” Jillson said. “And that’s the only way to do it.”

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