COLUMBUS, Ohio —The Santa Claus business is booming, as more brick and mortar stores are using experiences, like photo opportunities with Santa, to bring in foot traffic.
- While more people are turning to online shopping, in-store experiences like sitting with Santa Claus, are helping retailers keep their doors open
- Some stores are offering photos with Santa and digital check-ins
- An OSU marketing expert says the key for retail stores is offering experiences that you can't buy online.
Bass Pro Shops and Cabela's are just two of the many retailers keeping Saint Nick busy this holiday season.
Matt Mulig, the Columbus Cabela's store manager, says the retailer is providing "more than one million free photos with Santa this holiday season."
Cabela's and Bass Pro Shops offer a digital check-in system.
Once you arrive in store, you can register your name on the list, and shop while you wait your turn.
"You'll get a text message when it's your time to get in line and come see Santa," said Mulig.
Ohio State University's Chair of the Marketing and Logistics Department Joe Goodman says this is the way to win at retail.
"The retailers that are providing an experience for their consumers are the ones that are driving in traffic and getting consumers in the door. Once they can get you in the door, chances are, you're probably going to buy something," said Goodman.
Goodman says the key is offering experiences that you can't buy online.
"Online has its advantages. You can sit at home in your pajamas, or whatever it is you want to wear, and shop and not have anyone bother you. But, if you go to a brick and mortar store, you get to try things on, you get to find things that you wouldn't have otherwise. You might have a sales associate that might be able to help you. So, Santa is just one of those things that brings in a lot of people,” said Goodman.
GigSalad, a national online marketplace for entertainers, had 7,600 requests for Kris Kringle for retail appearances and parties this holiday alone.
"Santa has always gone up as far as demand goes, but just recently, in the last couple of years, it has become our number 1 requested category," said Megan Price, director of consumer experience for GigSalad.
While more and more people are turning to online shopping, in-store experiences like sitting with Santa Claus, are helping retailers keep their doors open.
Goodman says brick and mortar stores must adapt to survive.
"How we knew retail and how we knew the mall 10 or maybe 20 years ago is not going to be the mall in 5 or 10 years ago. We've seen that adoption, change, that evolution of what the mall is going to be, and it’s turning into more of an experiential center,” said Goodman.