The holidays are a hectic time of year for everyone. But for those working in the retail and logistics industries, it is he busiest time. From selecting which Christmas carols play in the store to deciding the most eye-catching places to display toys to getting Amazon packages to your door on time, there are thousands of people responsible for making holiday shopping happy. These are some of their stories.

When shoppers across the country walk into a Nordstrom this week, they’ll encounter twinkling lights, garlands strung around the store, and Mariah Carey crooning that all she wants for Christmas is tuuuuu.

But the planning needed to create an experience that inspires shoppers with the holiday spirit begins a year earlier, when department store executives select the overall theme, which sets the tone for the decor, said Paige Boggs, vice president of environment for the store. store. at Nordstrom.

This year’s theme at Nordstrom is “Home for the Holidays,” a nod to the nostalgia and traditions surrounding Christmas. Late last year, the store’s in-house design team and a group of engineers began creating decor around the theme, including holiday villages and candles placed in the windows. Those larger items are made and shipped to Nordstrom’s 93 stores in August, Ms. Boggs said.

The actual decorating of the stores’ interiors, however, doesn’t begin until the Monday night before Thanksgiving. Over the next few days, teams inside stores are working feverishly placing 3,500 trees and hanging 3,900 garlands, 4,350 wreaths and 95,000 strings of twinkling lights, all in preparation for Black Friday. For many retailers like Nordstrom, the day after Thanksgiving is the start of the biggest sales weeks of the year.

And contrary to popular belief, Nordstrom does not introduce any scents into its stores during the holiday season. “Our goal is no smell,” Ms. Boggs said. “Smell is a very polarizing thing,” she continued, adding that the store even uses unscented cleaning products.

The day after Thanksgiving is also when Nordstrom will start playing Christmas music in its stores. But to avoid driving store employees crazy with an endless loop of “All I Want For Christmas Is You,” department stores have 30,000 songs on rotation. On Black Friday, the retailer will play Christmas-themed music 50 percent of the time before reducing it to 20 percent the next day and slowly increasing it back up to 50 percent in mid-December. “My goal,” Mrs. Boggs said, “is that you don’t hear the same song twice a day.”

During the holidays, Target toys are moved beyond the designated aisle to other parts of the store. The category is big business for the retailer, and although the season’s popular toys are largely already known (hello, Barbie and LEGO), executives constantly discuss how much space they should give to toys this time of year. There are ways to “trick the space,” said Tara Russell, vice president of visual merchandising and styling.

Toys are placed at the end of the hallways and in the main hallway. A large red train-shaped container holds small stuffed toys and other knick-knacks to attract shoppers. FAO Schwarz toys are also displayed throughout the store.

“I’m sure our toy team would like even more space,” Ms. Russell said, smiling. “But they maximize what they have, and then we make sure we support each other and help them find a way to give them more space.”

Sometimes the team unpacks large items, like a toy truck, to give parents an idea of ​​how big it is. Children also have the opportunity to play with the items right away. But shoppers have told Target they’re not crazy about having too many unpackaged toys. “Our guest doesn’t tend to like distraction as much as we used to,” he said.

Instead, Target executives want shoppers to feel like they can easily walk around the store while checking their wish lists. Signage plays a role in that.

“We know what those top 10 toys are, so we make sure you know where they are,” Ms. Russell said. “We want you to be able to find the things that are most likely to be on your list more easily, and the probability that the top 10 toys will be on your list is much higher than, say, the 100th toy.”

The week after Black Friday, Kraig Kuban, an Amazon driver, usually has a good idea of ​​what shoppers in and around St. Petersburg, Florida, bought as Christmas gifts. He is one of hundreds of drivers for the e-commerce giant who are trained to drop off heavy items, some up to 300 pounds, to customers’ homes. It’s his fifth Christmas season doing this job.

Throughout the year, it delivers a steady stream of beds in boxes, Peloton exercise machines, and appliances. He’ll still deliver them before Christmas, but he’ll also start loading more Power Wheels cars and kitchen sets into his truck. Then there are artificial Christmas trees.

He packed the first Christmas tree into his truck even before Halloween. Now, his truck has at least one or two trees every day. “We’ve delivered a lot of them and it’s a little more monotonous,” said Kuban, 50. “Put it on the truck, let’s deliver it.” (He’s grateful he hasn’t had to deliver a real thorn tree yet.)

On average, Kuban and his partner will deliver 15 to 30 packages per day and sometimes set up the treadmill or air hockey table they leave behind. This time of year, parents will greet you outside by their truck and ask you to be discreet because the package is a gift for their child, so you will take the item to the garage to help them put it away.

And despite jokingly calling himself “Scrooge” when it comes to his own Christmas shopping, his line of work and his van make it impossible to escape Christmas. “The antenna on our trucks broke, so once we’re a little bit out of the area, the only station that comes on is the one that plays Christmas music,” Mr. Kuban said. “So we listened to it.”

The racks of cozy knit sweaters and shimmering sequin dresses now on display at your local Macy’s began arriving at the company’s distribution centers toward the end of summer. Making sure those sweaters and all other Macy’s items stay in stock is part of the complex game of Tetris that Sean Barbour, Macy’s senior vice president of supply chain, and his team are accustomed to.

It’s Mr. Barbour’s fourth holiday season with the company; During that time, he and his team weathered the Covid pandemic, global supply chain bottlenecks, and last year’s intense winter storms.

“We are great at solving challenges, no matter what form they take,” he said.

Behind the scenes, the company’s team that monitors its supply chain determines which items (and how many of them) should be in Macy’s more than 560 department stores in 43 states. The same goes for Bloomingdale’s stores, owned by Macy’s parent company.

The team spends the weeks leading up to Christmas using sophisticated technology to monitor a wide range of real-time metrics that help predict how long it will be before a store runs out of a certain product. The goal is to get more of that merchandise in the store before that happens.

“We’re positioning inventory and assortment in those regions, in those stores ahead of the season,” Barbour said. Macy’s maintains stockpiles of products at nearby fulfillment centers so it can quickly deliver items to stores that need them.

Delivering the same number of items to each store would result in some of that merchandise languishing. “We’re not really looking to have a huge amount of Christmas sweaters in Hawaii,” Barbour said.

Despite sophisticated modeling, a snowstorm could hit a region and slow delivery times, or an item could unexpectedly start flying off the shelves. Mr. Barbour’s team has to be agile in situations like this.

“We will do whatever is necessary,” he said. “We will change delivery times. We will ship inventory from another location. “We will literally do whatever it takes to support that store.”

When asked what time he wakes up on Black Friday, Barbour said, “That assumes I went to sleep.”