World-famous shopping districts are preparing – read bracing – for a holiday season unlike any they’ve ever seen. With the coronavirus pandemic still raging in much of the world, many consumers are still wary of visiting stores. Travel restrictions will also slash the number of wealthy tourists normally relied upon to spend at this time of year. Still, luxury stores are still putting forth their best socially distanced effort. They’re filling windows with Christmas displays in an effort to salvage a crucial holiday season after Covid-19 wreaked havoc on retailers from Tokyo in Japan to New York in the United States. Here’s a look at what it’s like on the ground at these prominent thoroughfares as Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving in the US that is seen as the start of the holiday shopping season, approaches. Bond Street, London “In the words of the queen, 2020 will certainly go down as one of the most annus horribilis ” for retailers in the famed luxury shopping destination, said Katie Thomas, associate director of Bond Street and Mayfair at the New West End company, the organisation behind the street’s 600 retailers, restaurateurs, and hoteliers. Bond Street has been hit hard because of its reliance on foreign shoppers and by the lack of office workers commuting into central London. Store visits had already fallen by about half when new Covid-19 restrictions closed locations earlier this month. “It’s the perfect storm,” Thomas said. Shops ranging from Cartier to Chanel aren’t waiting for their reopening to get ready for the holiday season: Christmas lights are up earlier than usual. And when they can reopen on December 3, the Bond Street Christmas tree will be revealed with a brass band minus the carol singers. If there are lines to get into stores, employees are even planning to serve hot chocolate. Champs-Elysées, Paris The spread of the virus has led to a second lockdown in France, which forced non-essential stores to shut on October 30. “If we don’t reopen on December 1, it will be extremely serious,” said Edouard Lefebvre, general manager of the Comité Champs-Elysées, which represents the 100 or so stores in the area. Still, the organisation put up its holiday light show on November 22 – but the launch was virtual. The Champs-Elysées has faced upheaval for several years, including terror attacks , strikes, riots after soccer matches and violence during the recent anti-government protests. Continued lockdowns could bring even more pain. Ginza, Tokyo The streets of Ginza – one of Tokyo’s most well known shopping districts – would usually have been lit up by now, with the luxury shops dotting its main drag covered in lights and decorations. It had become a must-see for tourists and couples. But this year many stores and buildings are dark. Japan still has strict controls on allowing tourists into the country, meaning just a fraction of the usual shopping traffic has returned to Ginza. To combat that, the Ginza Street Association is planning a handwashing event at the main Ginza crossing in December, according to Eriko Takezawa, the head of the Ginza Street Association. Passers-by who clean their hands will be given a handkerchief and coupon to spend at a nearby store. They’ll also add more illumination along the streets, hoping to draw more people. Japan luxury retail in dire straits – but will bounce back, analysts say Causeway Bay, Hong Kong Few retailers have been hit as hard by the pandemic as Hong Kong shop owners. A walk down the main shopping street in Causeway Bay – home to the world’s highest retail rents – shows the fallout from a decline in retail sales that stretches back more than 18 straight months amid protests and Covid-19 restrictions. Brands like Tissot, Prada and Victoria’s Secret are among those whose storefronts are empty or boarded up. Hope may come in the form of tourists, who are just beginning to trickle back into Hong Kong. To boost tourism, the city recently formed a travel bubble with Singapore that doesn’t require visitors to quarantine. But with Covid-19 cases rising, government agencies delayed its start, slated for November 22, by two weeks. “There was a renewed feeling that the worst is behind, with the virus and the political situation under control,” Amrita Banta, Singapore-based managing director at luxury consultancy Agility Research, said before the travel bubble was delayed. “The city is ready to reopen.” Fifth Avenue, New York Fifth Avenue is still home to two of the glitziest department stores in the world: Saks Fifth Avenue and Bergdorf Goodman. But the numbers have dwindled in recent years, with accessories brand Henri Bendel closing its century-old store and Barneys New York, just a block off the strip, liquidating. Several storefronts, including the former Ralph Lauren flagship, remain vacant. Its stores are now preparing for a muted holiday rush, with little or no tourists in sight. But they’ll do their best to bring holiday cheer, even as Covid-19 cases rise in New York, once the epicentre of the outbreak in the US . As usual, Saks, Bergdorf and boutiques like Dolce & Gabbana and Louis Vuitton are dressing their extravagant holiday windows. A local business group is installing artwork of oversized toys, like a teddy bear, balloons and dreidel (a four-sided spinning top, often used to play games during the Jewish winter festival of Hanukkah), according to Jerome Barth, president of the Fifth Avenue Association. This preparation comes after a volatile summer when some Fifth Avenue stores were ransacked amid protests after the killing by police in the Midwestern city of Minneapolis of a black man, George Floyd, sparked civil unrest . Many stores boarded up windows ahead of the US presidential election to defend against potential violence. Now most have started to peek out from behind the plywood after those fears didn’t come to pass, hoping for a positive end to a tumultuous 2020.