Watty Brooks Hall, the owner of the Brooks Collection, plans to keep her iPhone charged and ready for more FaceTime calls this holiday season.

Her Collierville, Tennessee gift shop introduced virtual shopping for consumers who don’t feel comfortable coming inside but want to see the pottery, gifts and home goods up close. Hall also plans to post more photos on Instagram and Facebook where engagement has been up since the pandemic.

Texas-based Stag Provisions also is engaging more with shoppers on social media. It will also stock more comfortable clothes such as t-shirts and sweatpants this holiday season as people continue to spend a lot of time at home.

And Gibson’s Bookstore, New Hampshire’s oldest independent book shop established in 1898, hopes to drive online sales with its new curbside pickup option. Small retailers across the country have had to get creative to keep the lights on after dealing with temporary closures and restrictions amid the coronavirus pandemic. Now they’re preparing for a holiday shopping season unlike any they have ever experienced. National retailers are amping up the pressure with earlier promotions to spread through the season, but small stores may benefit because of their size and ability to personalize the shopping experience. “We deliver. We ship. We do curbside,” Hall said, adding her shop near Memphis doesn’t sell merchandise on its website. “It’s just trying to keep a small business alive is what it boils down to.”

Given concerns about social distancing, supply chain disruptions and other challenges due to coronavirus, getting ready for the crucial season poses new challenges – and perhaps opportunities – for business owners. Michael Herrmann, who purchased Gibson’s 25 years ago, is planning for lower in-store sales this season, but higher online sales. In addition to adding curbside pickup, the store is holding events online.

“I think it keeps crowds from being in the store at the same time to mitigate the risk. We’re going to offer every opportunity to accommodate as many people as we can,” he said. “Our main goal is to get to the other side with everybody healthy in the store and still in good shape financially.”

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