Visalia Mall adapts to provide holiday shopping in a pandemic

VISALIA, Calif. (KFSN) -- Black Friday this year may not have had the swelling crowds or lines of years past, but malls saw a steady flow of customers.

The National Retail Federation predicted holiday sales will increase between 3.5% to 5% this November and December.

For Visalia's Madisyn Reed and her mother Kelley, holiday shopping is a time-honored tradition - one that starts as soon as their Thanksgiving meal ends.

"We would go everywhere just to get gifts for everyone," Madisyn said.

In response to the pandemic, however, some big box stores closed this Thanksgiving, and many retailers decided to do multi-day sales or offer more deals online.

RELATED: Which Central California malls, shopping centers are open during Thanksgiving weekend, Black Friday?

All of which is to say that Black Friday in 2020, unsurprisingly, did not look the same.

"It's just different," Madisyn said.

Ahead of the holiday shopping season, the Visalia Mall expanded its curbside pickup service by adding more parking spaces on the north and west sides of the property.

Still, many shoppers are choosing to come inside, and General Manager Rick Feder knows how important it is to make them feel safe.

Hand sanitizing stations and social distancing signs are spread out through the mall, and security officers will offer visitors a mask if they aren't wearing one.

"Security is doing a good job making sure there's no large groups of individuals gathering," Feder said. "They're shopping, moving store to store, and then they're leaving."

"The amount (of customers) in the stores (is) limited so that's nice," Kelley Reed said. "Feels safe. As safe as we can."

Madisyn was surprised to see Santa at the mall on Friday.

But she learned her eight-month old son will be able to take pictures with him for his first Christmas.

They will just be separated by six feet and some Plexiglas.

"That's awesome," Madisyn said. "I would make a reservation. I'm going to have to do that!"

Reservations are required to take pictures with Santa at the Visalia Mall.

Reserve a time here.

There are some virtual Santa options this year too.
Copyright © 2021 KFSN-TV. All Rights Reserved.