SEATTLE – Downtown Seattle was buzzing as the city once again hosted the annual Westlake Tree Lighting.
This is the first in-person tree lighting since the pandemic made it a virtual affair last year.
More people were in downtown Seattle for an event like this than for any other in nearly two very long years.
Retailers who have struggled to hold on are hoping that bodes well for this holiday shopping season.
It almost feels like the Black Fridays of yesteryear. A bustle of people seeking holiday cheer even in the gloom of this day after Thanksgiving.
“We moved here this summer,” said Nicole Martin of Seattle. “I think it’s great to see everyone come out.”
“I was thrilled to come in perfect weather to Seattle,” said her mother, Kate McWhinney, of Winston-Salem, North Carolina. “It was raining. It was dark. It was gray. It was wonderful.”
But the signs are there that this isn’t the downtown Seattle of old. See’s Candies closes Saturday. These storefronts once housed national retailers Banana Republic and Ann Taylor’s The Loft, a sad reminder that it’s not business as usual here.
“Oh, business is oh, I don’t know, 50%,” Paul Duncan, optician at Seattle Eye Docs, said of the drop in business during the pandemic.
He sees signs of change.
“Today is nice to watch over there,” Duncan said. “There are people shopping, people with children. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen families here. And you really miss it.
The Downtown Seattle Association has installed light sculptures in place of the carousel that fell victim to the pandemic. And DSA spokesman James Sido sees a silver lining even among the vacant storefronts.
“Interestingly, 75% of street businesses that were open before the pandemic are open again downtown,” Sido said. “There are notable closures, no doubt. But maybe there’s an opportunity in these storefronts to introduce new retail, or a new way of looking at street-level retail, that’s for sure.
Some visitors are already won over.
“You have a wonderful city,” said Brenda Christie, of Wilmington, Delaware. “I love coming here. I come here as often as I can. »
Seattle police have their hands full, with the tree lighting here at 5:15 a.m., the Apple Cup and a concert at Climate Pledge Arena.
But they say they are staffed to handle everything on this busy Black Friday.
©2021 Cox Media Group