Economic strain, social distancing create uncertain outlook for holiday shopping season in Tampa Bay

8 On Your Side

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Black Friday and the holiday shopping season may seem a bit darker this year due to the pandemic, but small businesses are still determined to shine.

That includes Sharon Yerrid, owner of South Tampa boutique Creme de la Creme, who isn’t letting the negativity of the pandemic hold her back.

“What can we do now, how can we move forward?” she said. “How can we stay positive, how can get creative?”

One of Yerrid’s creative solutions is expanding their shop outside for Small Business Saturday, allowing shoppers to stay apart while perusing inventory. They’re also offering private shopping sessions all December long.

Creme de la Creme does at least 20 percent of its annual business during the holidays, according to Yerrid, meaning it’s vital to lure in customers for the next month while maintaining social distance.

“There are not crowds coming in here, you can stay six feet apart,” she said.

Roughly half of Americans are expected to sit Black Friday out entirely this year, meaning the pandemic could be the final nail in the coffin for a holiday tradition that’s already been in decline.

A survey from data firm Shoppertrak found that more than six out of every 10 Americans are concerned about shopping in person this holiday season. In-store shopping is predicted to drop by 25 percent compared to last year.

But it’s not just the reluctance to shop in person that could hurt retailers. Tampa Bay area financial advisor Celine Pastore says shoppers are likely to keep their purse strings tighter this year, even online, due to the economic strain and uncertainty brought on by the pandemic.

“Statistics are showing that people on average are going to spend $50 less this year,” Pastore explained.

While online shopping will dominate, Pastore sees a pandemic silver lining for smaller businesses over big box stores. As people look to avoid crowds, smaller shops might have a greater appeal.

Corporate-chain incentives like doorbusters that draw big crowds and often dominate mom and pop shops could also be discouraged this year due to social distancing.

Pastore recommends small businesses look to adopt new perks, like curbside pick, to succeed during a bleaker holiday season.

“It could be a great differentiator for small businesses looking to attract local shoppers who don’t want to put up with larger crowds,” she said.

Yerrid has already incorporated home delivery at Creme de la Creme, willing to do just about anything for her customers who she calls “everything.”

“Without you guys, absolutely, we go under,” Yerrid said.

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