With safety precautions in place, retailers say shoppers can feel safe this holiday season.By John Shumway

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Have you ventured out to do your holiday shopping yet?

With more restrictions on the horizon, retailers are understandably concerned about the most important shopping time of the year.

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National Retail Federation Senior Vice President David French says shoppers should feel safe going to their favorite store.

“We’ve learned a lot since the shutdowns and lockdowns of the spring and retailers have invested billions of dollars in personal protective equipment masks, making their stores safer, plexiglass shields, testing, to name it retailers have done all of it. We think with the protocols in place retail is a safe place,” he said.

French says they’ve been talking to the health experts and politicians as they consider new restrictions to try and slow the COVID surge.

“We expect capacity restrictions and mask mandates, rather than closures,” he said.

As for how shoppers should handle their in-person shopping French recommends planning ahead of time.

“Don’t wait until the last minute,” he said. “We know retail shipping options are at capacity. So if you’re going to place an online order you should do it as soon as possible. But, but if you’re going to go to the stores. Try to shop in the most socially distant way possible as soon as possible.”

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WATCH: Staying Safe During Holiday Shopping

French says that’s important because most retailers have cut back on their usual holiday inventories and the item you want may be gone if you wait.

As for waiting for last-minute deals…

“They started promotions much earlier,” French explained. “A lot of people saw Black Friday sales that stretched weeks in November as opposed to over the Thanksgiving weekend, and you’re seeing a lot of promotional activity, designed to spread people out. I think waiting until the last minute is a strategy that may have worked in the past it may not be as successful this time around.”

Many retailers have closed for good over the past nine months and the NRF is concerned more could do the same if shoppers don’t come out.

French points out a report from Yale indicating as more stores fail and close their doors it sends the shoppers into the remaining stores and that only increases the risk of COVID-19.

French says that is why they have spent millions of dollars to make shopping COVID-safe.

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“You’ve seen a lot of innovation in this space,” he said. “You know, buy online, pick up in-store, curbside pickup, appointment shopping. These are all tools that retailers have innovated, you know, some folks in the industry joked, and this but it’s probably true, we saw 10 years of innovation in 10 weeks in the spring, and that that innovation is here to stay. Being socially distant using masks, those kinds of things and we can get through the holiday season together.”