Santa Claus won't be visiting any Macy's stores in 2020, ending a 159-year holiday season tradition. The department store's tradition started in 1861, but Santa meet-and-greets won't be happening this year because of concerns about the coronavirus pandemic. Instead, Macy's is creating an interactive virtual experience.
"To replicate the magical experience of visiting Macy's Santaland for children and their families, we will shift to a virtual engagement this year," Susan Tercero, Macy's vice president of branded entertainment, said in a press release.
The virtual Santa experience will be available online from Nov. 27 to Dec. 24. Macy's will limit the number of children who can participate: up to three can take part in the customized experience at one time.
Total Retail's Take: While it's sad to see a holiday tradition that so many families have enjoyed over the years come to an end (at least for 2020), it's not surprising. Macy's made the decision that it was too risky for it to offer its normal Santaland experience, complete with children sitting on Santa's knee and telling him the gifts they wanted this year, during a global pandemic. Customer safety has to be a priority for retailers this holiday shopping season, particularly as they try to entice shoppers back into their stores. While Macy's has announced it won't have an in-person Santa experience this year, some malls are going forward with their plans. Brookfield Properties, the second-largest mall operator in the country, said Santa will be in 134 of its more than 150 malls. However, Santa will remain behind plexiglass. The "touchless experience" with Santa will be like "a drive-up window type of scenario," said Rocell Viniard, director of portfolio marketing with Brookfield Properties. COVID-19 deals another blow to struggling Macy's, putting an end to one of if not the biggest foot traffic generators of the year.