Pandemic impacts holiday industries in Michigan; some struggle as others thrive

Posted at 6:53 AM, Dec 04, 2020

The pandemic has taken a toll on many businesses in Michigan, but some are feeling the pain during what's normally their peak season.

“It’s been hard because we love the little kids," said a man from Oak Park, who works alongside his wife every year as one of Santa's helpers. They visit children dressed as Santa and Mrs. Claus, spreading holiday cheer on behalf of the jolly old man up north. This will be their 56th Christmas together, and the 18th in which they work as holiday actors.

“We’ve had normally between 40 and 45 during the Christmas season, events that we go to," said Mrs. Claus. They preferred not to use their real names. “This year, we have six. And we have turned down just so many people," she said.

It's always a tough decision, they said. But with COVID-19 cases surging around metro Detroit, they didn't feel safe taking the gigs.

Check out this message from Santa to the children of Michigan, explaining that even during the pandemic, he will make it to their houses this year.

Santa has a message for Metro Detroit kids this holiday season

A Michigan staple for all things holidays is Bronner's Christmas Wonderland in Frankenmuth.

“The crowds are down," said President and CEO Wayne Bronner.

With capacity capped at 30 percent, Bronner said sometimes people have to wait in line outside, however, he said normally it moves pretty quickly.

Bronner's virtual tour and online options help keep shoppers engaged wherever they are, he told 7 Action News.

“A lot of the items that we ordered came in before the pandemic," Bronner said, meaning pandemic-related kinks in supply chains haven't affected much of Bronner's inventory. But, Bronner expects sales during their peak season will take a hit this year.

“It’s probably going to be about a third of what we’re used to.”

According to the Michigan Christmas Tree Association, the demand for real pines amid the pandemic is up. In a small survey of Michigan Christmas Tree farmers (15 responded), all reported an increase in sales this year. About a half saw an increase of 25 percent; some reported even larger gains.

According to the survey, half of the farmers reported the reason for higher sales they say, is because people are looking for something safe to do outside with their families during the pandemic.

As for Santa and Mrs. Claus, they're accepting a few small, socially-distanced appearances this year, in hopes that next year they'll be back to doing what they really love.