by Neil Allen
A recent conversation among our board members about the state of the nativity markets prompted a lively discussion. With a strong desire to be supportive of our friends in the business of making and selling nativities, there was a call to name them and even promote them. After a lively string of emails, the conversation ended with the reminder that because we are a non-profit corporation, we cannot advertise without serious ramification to our 501-c3 status. Even the mention of names could be construed as a violation of that status.
So, I did a little investigative work, (names and businesses withheld so as not to cross the non-profit line), because I personally wanted to know what is going on in the nativity market, and I also have a heart for those who make and sell nativities.
As I suspected, the pandemic has really rocked the nativity market. One retailer told me that other retailers are simply not buying inventory for the usually busy Thanksgiving to Christmas shoppers this year. She said, “I expect a 40% decline in customers – both on-line and in-store.” As many of us know, retailers generally do 25% of their business in that Thanksgiving to Christmas window.
“You are going to see more ‘Shop small/shop local/ shop early’ type of promotions,” said one retailer. Then, sadly, she said, “Some retailers are already planning their shutdown strategy.”
The sad truth came through these interviews, “We just don’t know what is going to happen.”
Those retailers who are ordering say, “We’re just taking a leap of faith, and praying we can make January rent.”
One fair-trade retailer told me it’s effecting the whole nativity chain of supply/demand. “Because people are buying less because they have less, they’re also buying smaller.”
The terrible conclusion is that nativity availably may be seriously affected in 2020, and possibly even into 2021 and beyond.
As I traveled to emerging markets such as Ecuador before the pandemic, I knew the trickle-down hardship would impact people who live on little very deeply.
In a recent interview with a mission partner in Ecuador, I heard firsthand how challenging the pandemic has been on the people I had visited there. Some are living on very little, and our mission funds are stretched to the widest base we can stretch it to. “Thanks to God for your help” said our mission partner, “I just don’t know what they would do without it.”
As I’m told often by artists in our own family, “Art is the first thing that gets cut in hard times.” One large scale employer near me just eliminated quite a few of their artistic staff.
It’s not all gloom and doom, however. One retailer told me, “I’m still working on the big stuff, and the unique things, because I know it’s what I want for myself.” It’s just a wait and see situation…”It’s weird!”