We’re having a lot of trouble figuring out how to handle our Covid Christmas.
It’s hard to know what to do. Over the last few years, as the kids have scattered around the USA, and school schedules have given way to work schedules, Christmas, and Hannukah, and Thanksgiving, have become almost the only time the whole family can get together.
For Jenni, Christmas at her Mom’s is the most special time, especially the traditional Christmas Eve dinner. Thanksgiving is my big day, everyone at our house, sharing love from my kitchen. Of course, traditions have changed over the years with new faces joining our family, and old ones moving on, but the holidays remained always a time to cherish each other. But what are we to do this year? There’s little we want more than to be together, and nothing we fear more than making each other sick. We still haven’t really decided what to do. What about you? Do you have your plan yet?
For Jenni and I, as for many millions of Americans, the holidays are always also a business season. In one capacity or another I’ve worked over 40 Christmas retail seasons, and Jenni 30 plus. More than once one or both of us have closed a store to rush home Christmas Eve, or lit the Hannukah lights in the back room. Many years we drove through the night heading to Washington DC from Martha’s Vineyard, dashing down interstate 95 in our four wheeled minivan. For us every retail Christmas was hard, exhausting work, always teetering on the edge off chaos. And also, every retail Christmas was exhilarating, full of bonding with staff, suppliers, and, yes, the UPS guy, or the ladies at the post office.
If we are confused this year about our family celebrations, we are only slightly less uncertain about what “the season” holds for our family business. If we fill the store with new merchandise will people come, and how well can we serve them with a six customer limit on who we can let in the store? We’re more certain about shoppers on line, but with a reduced staff will we be able to help everyone in a timely manner? And will the delivery services hold up to the increased demand, from us, and from much bigger companies? For me one Christmas Miracle is always watching the already overworked postal and UPS workers load up several hundred packages on Cyber Monday, or December 22, confident they’d all end up under the tree. It’s being said a lot this year, but let me add my voice to the chorus – these men and women ARE among the heroes of our time, and it’s great to see them get some recognition. But will the system be able to handle that last holiday rush this year?
Frankly this has been a hard year for us. Thankfully we’ve been spared by the virus, and know our woes are nothing compared to those who’ve lost loved ones or cared for the sick. It hurt to close our Martha’s Vineyard factory warehouse, but at least everyone there remained in good health. The DC store was closed entirely for much of April and May, and didn’t open to the public again until July, but our internet sales continued and over the summer we slowly brought staff back, though now there are seven of us instead of fourteen, and what awaits us is more uncertain than anything we’ve faced since we first opened our doors. And it’s not just us, our suppliers are also facing shortages off labor and supplies. It’s a balancing act between just not being able to do all we know we need to and trying to be sure we can serve as many of you as well as you deserve.
The only way we can see to deal with these circumstances is to try to spread our business out a bit. Last Saturday we started putting Christmas cards out in the store, three or four weeks earlier than last year. And we’re going to have our annual “Black Friday Cyber Monday” sale early too. We don’t have all the details down yet, except we’ll offer the same discounts we normally would, only earlier and for a longer period of time. With uncertain supply chains we might put the most popular items on sale as they come in, but our overall goal will be to give you the bargains you’re used to, just not concentrated on one weekend. So keep your eyes on your inbox, we’ll be joining that deluge of emails you’re already getting, sorry about that.
We’ll do everything we can to help make your holidays a success. And, by the way, if you’ve figured out how you’re doing the holiday please share any great ideas you’ve come up with. Post below, or share your story on our Facebook page. We’re all in this boat together, together we can make it.
Stay well, Robby