World-famous shopping districts are preparing — and bracing — for a holiday season unlike any they’ve ever seen.
Many consumers are still wary of visiting stores, with the coronavirus pandemic reignited in much of the world. Travel restrictions will also slash the number of wealthy tourists normally relied upon to spend oodles of cash this time of year.
The spread of the virus has led to the second lockdown in France, forcing non-essential stores to shut on Oct. 30.
“If we don’t reopen on Dec. 1, it will be extremely serious,” said Edouard Lefebvre, General Manager of the Comite Champs-Elysees, which represents the 100 or so stores in the area. Still, the organization planned to put on its holiday light show starting on Nov. 22, but it will be virtual.
The Champs-Elysees has faced upheaval for several years, including terror attacks, strikes, riots after soccer matches and violence during the Yellow Vest protests. And continued lockdowns could bring even more pain.
The streets of Ginza—one of Tokyo’s most well known shopping districts—would have usually been lit up by now, with the luxury shops dotting its main drag covered in lights and decorations. It had become a must-see for tourists and couples.
But this year many stores and buildings are dark. Japan still has strict controls on allowing tourists into the country, meaning just a fraction of the usual shopping traffic has returned to Ginza.
To combat that, the Ginza Street Association is planning a hand-washing event at the main Ginza crossing in December, according to Eriko Takezawa, the head of the Ginza Street Association. Passersby who clean their hands will be given a handkerchief and coupon to spend at a nearby store. They’ll also add more illumination along the streets, hoping to draw more people.
Causeway Bay, Hong Kong
Few retailers have been hit as hard by the pandemic as Hong Kong shop owners. A walk down the main road in Causeway Bay—home to the world’s priciest retail rents—shows the fallout of retail sales declining for nearly 20 straight months amid protests and Covid restrictions. Brands like Tissot, Prada and Victoria Secret are among the closed storefronts.
Hope may come in the form of tourists, who are just beginning to trickle back into town. To boost tourism, Hong Kong recently formed a travel bubble with Singapore that doesn’t require visitors to quarantine. But with Covid cases rising, government agencies delayed its start, slated for Sunday, by two weeks.
“There was a renewed feeling that the worst is behind, with the virus and the political situation under control,” Amrita Banta, Singapore-based managing director at luxury consultancy Agility Research, said before the travel bubble was delayed. “The city is ready to reopen.”