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Washington business experts say longer holiday shopping season this year

Ballard Ave NW. (Photo courtesy of SDOT)

Black Friday is often viewed as the start of the holiday shopping season, but business experts say it’s already in full swing this year.

“The holiday season is underway … spreading that holiday season out is something that employers and retailers and shops and merchants have been focused on, probably since Halloween,” said Kris Johnson, president and CEO of the Association of Washington Business.

Data from the National Retail Federation suggests holiday shopping started even earlier than Halloween this year, with retail sales rising 10.6% this October compared to last year (not including auto or gas sales). And 42% of people surveyed by the NRF said they had started their seasonal shopping in October.

Renée Sunde, president and CEO of the Washington Retail Association, says this trend is likely directly related to the pandemic.

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“This is probably a holiday season that is going to last longer than most, and that’s because a lot of retailers started the process of offering sales early,” she said. “And the purpose of that was to spread out the shopping season to make it more safe for customers.”

But a longer shopping season does not necessarily guarantee financial success, especially for small businesses that have been trying to survive during a pandemic.

“We can’t begin to express how important it is to support local, and how important probably the next 45 days are to local businesses, and their employees, and the communities they call home,” Johnson said.

For these businesses, which may have experienced shutdowns and the loss of a tourism season, the holiday shopping season may indeed be the last hope, he said.

“In our most recent survey, 60% of employers at small businesses said they were suffering due to the pandemic,” Johnson said. “Nearly 30% had laid off workers.”

In 2020, he said we all have a vital part to play in our communities by shopping local, whether online or in shops.

“For a number of businesses, the holiday season is what makes or breaks their year,” Johnson said. “We need to do everything we can to support local, whether it’s in-person, online, through gift cards. This is a really important period of time, not just for them, but for them to maintain the employees they have working for them, their suppliers, to be involved in their community. ”

However, there is also a second part to this — if we go out shopping in person, we should do so safely. After all, Johnson says, the sooner everyone complies with safety precautions, the sooner the pandemic and its restrictions on business will end, allowing mom-and-pop employers to get back to normal. That’s why the association is using the phrase, “Wear a mask, save a job.”

“We’ve all got to do our part to knock down the virus,” Johnson said. “… We can do our individual part as we head out to shop by wearing a mask, washing our hands, maintaining social distancing, and supporting local businesses this holiday season.”

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