PITTSBURGH — How do you plan for holiday shopping in a pandemic?
That's the question that has owners of local women's boutiques and men's retailers scratching their heads in the weeks before Black Friday and Small Business Saturday. Many are hoping private shopping options, curated gift boxes, gift card incentives and online ordering will entice customers to shop locally — all while maintaining COVID-19 safety protocols.
"People definitely want something to do that's different, and shopping is something that makes people happy right now," said Kristi West, owner of Kristi Boutique in Aspinwall.
Her women's clothing and accessories store, which also carries children's items, typically holds a slate of events during the holidays. This year, she did a pandemic makeover.
"It's going to be a family Christmas at KB," she said. "Because everything is centered around family, and that's who you are going to be spending your time with."
She's offering after-hours events by appointment that she's dubbed "two hours, no men, no kids — need we say more?" Small groups of women are invited to rent the store for two hours after closing for private shopping or to just relax, talk and enjoy a cocktail and a snack. Eight sessions have been booked so far.
"Some groups want to dress up, and some asked if they could wear their robes and slippers," Ms. West said. "We're letting them do whatever they want and letting them make it their night."
She's also planning a men's shopping night Dec. 10 and a "Kids takeover at KB." For the latter, parents drop off their children at the store for an hour with a shopping allowance. Store associates will help them shop and wrap gifts.
West also is getting creative with shipping. She's working with a local stationery designer to create cards that can be added to wrapped gifts and sent out for customers.
"You just have to try different things to get people's attention right now," she said. "I do feel like people are going to want to support small businesses and shop local, but (these are) weird times. You just don't know what to expect."