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Ho, ho, ho: Socially-distanced Santa arrives at Quad-City malls in December
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Ho, ho, ho: Socially-distanced Santa arrives at Quad-City malls in December

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Santa is returning to NorthPark and SouthPark malls this year, but at a distance.

He will be in the Von Maur court at the malls in Davenport, starting Dec. 4, and Moline, starting Dec. 1.

Both malls are requiring face coverings to be worn by Santa, his team and guests, ages 2 and older. Hand sanitizer will be on hand for those entering and exiting; social distancing will be in place between Santa and guests; and the area will undergo a "deep cleaning" each night.

“The biggest difference is guests will not be sitting on his lap or next to Santa. But they are still welcome to chat with Santa, it will just be at a distance. We realize this is different than past experiences, but Santa will be able to hear and respond with no problem,” said Laura Crossman, senior manager of corporate marketing at Macerich, the owner of both malls, in an email.

Websites for both malls already have the ability for interested parties to make a reservation to ensure social distancing.

Cherry Hill Photography is partnering with the mall and has kept pricing similar to previous years, Crossman said in an email. Three different packages will be available for families to purchase from $39.99 to $49.99.

“The set will be deep cleaned every day before opening and will be cleaned regularly throughout the day to ensure a healthy experience for our guests. High touch point areas, like the photo seating area and point of sale, will be cleaned regularly throughout the day between guest visits,” Crossman said in an email.

The news about Santa's return early next month is happening as the holiday shopping season has been running for about a month now. 

Amazon Prime Day, normally hosted in July, was delayed this year until Oct. 13 and Oct. 14, which effectively kicked off the season much earlier than normal years, said Jason Long, CEO of Shift Marketing Group based in St. Louis.

With that, other retailers have unveiled “Black Friday” priced deals and savings in the last month, well before the traditional day after Thanksgiving sales.

“You’ve probably seen other companies trying to spread out Black Friday through all of November. A lot of companies, every weekend they’re kind of having a mini Black Friday in November. And it makes sense, you don’t want 500 people rushing into a store right now with COVID going on,” he said.

More stores also have opted to remain closed on Thanksgiving Day; that’s true for both malls in the Quad-Cities. Crossman said both malls will reopen for Black Friday, 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.

“Retailers are constantly changing specials, so I encourage residents to call, click or visit to see what their favorite retailer is offering,” she said.

Long said retailers have been trending toward closing on Thanksgiving Day in recent years.

“I think this year with COVID and retailers have really tried to take care of their employees better, or at least be seen as taking care of their employees better, so I think not opening on Thanksgiving was kind of a nod to employees’ hard work this year," he said.

Businesses have rolled out curbside pickup throughout the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, a feature Long doesn’t see ending after COVID-19.

“There’s a lot of people who just benefit from not having to go into a store, like parents with kids, elderly people, and everybody is in a hurry. A lot of people just don’t want to go into a store from a hassle standpoint,” he said.

Besides a convenient option for consumers, it also cuts down shipping costs for retailers, Long said.

Kyle Carter, executive director of the Downtown Davenport Partnership, an arm of the Quad Cities Chamber of Commerce, said Small Business Saturday, traditionally the day after Black Friday, is on in Davenport this year.

“We’re going to be doing some surprise gift cards for people shopping downtown” on Small Business Saturday, he said.

And for anyone who orders something that day to be delivered to their home from a downtown business, DDP staff will provide the delivery service.

“We’re trying to paint windows and trying to do more holiday painting of windows in retail and bars and restaurants” as well, Carter said.

The Quad Cities Chamber of Commerce also recently rolled out its “Keep It QC” gift card program, which will ship 8 to 15 business days after order.

Area merchants participating in the gift card and rewards program will offer specials to encourage the use of the cards at their shops. The cards can be used anywhere around the Quad-Cities, except at gas pumps, ATMs, cash access and for recurring payments, a news release said.

The gift card is the latest part of the “Keep It QC” campaign. Red yard signs have sprung up identifying participating businesses.

The gift card program “keeps the dollars here, and that improves our local economy. ... You’re helping these businesses here to be able to weather these storms and be able to rebound faster,” said Erin Platt, director of marketing at the Chamber.

“It’s the right thing to do, to shop locally and to support your area businesses whenever it’s possible, because of the economic impact it has. When you keep your dollars here, it keeps your dollars circulating in our economy. … And if you’re supporting businesses locally, that means they’re able to keep their doors open and” keep employees on their payrolls who “go out into the community and spend their dollars.”

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