Retail stores boost COVID-19 safety measures during last-minute holiday shopping rush

As some people rush to malls and shopping centers for last-minute holiday purchases, stores are doing their best to keep everyone safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

One thing the pandemic hasn’t changed this holiday season is the traffic that comes with last-minute shopping. On Tuesday the parking lot was busy at Southcenter Mall in Tukwila, and some customers found a spot further away from the entrance at other area retail stores.

Some late shoppers are ditching the "big box" stores and traffic for something quick. Wendy Marquis stopped by Seattle Chocolate because she knew she could pick up something in a hurry for her neighbors.

"The traffic has been heavy, but it’s easy parking. This is their retail outlet, so it’s easy. It’s in and out," said Marquis. "I just found my gift like that and I’m out."

Several other people went to Seattle Chocolate just days before Christmas to get a fast gift. To help protect staff and customers from coronavirus exposure, the store has COVID-19 safety measures in place. Hand sanitizing stations are available, plexiglass is positioned at the register, and signs are posted encouraging social distancing.

If customers are not comfortable buying indoors, they can submit an order for curbside pickup by calling the flagship store at 425-264-2705 or calling the airport store at 206-637-2127. Mellina White, of Seattle Chocolate, said the curbside pickup has been a preferred choice lately.

"As we’ve gotten closer to Christmas and Hanukkah, we’ve seen an uptick in need. And our amazing retail team has been able to keep up with that demand," said White, the company’s senior manager of digital strategy and commerce.

White said the demand for chocolate has been so high this season, last-minute gifts purchased online won’t be delivered in time for Christmas.

"We notice a lot of folks here in Seattle want to give a piece of Seattle to their friends and family across the country. So, there’s lots of gifts going everywhere in every state," said White.

Seattle Chocolate is owned and operated by women. The small business has been overwhelmed with community support throughout the pandemic. White said buying from their company not only supports local, but also supports their philanthropic goals.

"With every Jcoco bar that’s purchased we donate a fresh serving of food To food backlog throughout the country. With our season lines at Seattle Chocolate we also have the opportunity to give back to a lot of local organizations. This year alone we’ve given back to GSBA, Mary’s Place and Cancer Pathways in addition to many others," said White.

Seattle Chocolate is open through Christmas Eve with special business hours. Most stores are also open for last-minute gifts. Customers are encouraged to check business hours before shopping.