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How Pope Francis' NYC Visit Will Affect Fifth Avenue, From Barricades to Bobbleheads

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When Pope Francis visits New York City for the first time this Thursday afternoon, it won't just be city streets that make way for the Popemobile — though according to officials, the visit will mark the greatest number of street closures in the city's history. Stores, too, are preparing in their own ways.

WWD reports that Fifth Avenue shoppers and employees can expect everything from early closures to secret service sweeps with the pope's arrival, in addition to pope-centric merchandise flooding the streets.

But not all stores have the same strategy when it comes to preparing: While Michael Kors, Banana Republic, Zara, and others said they'd be closing a few hours early on Thursday afternoon before his scheduled visit to St. Patrick's Cathedral, some — like Armani Exchange and Ferragamo — are "taking a wait-and-see approach." Saks, Topshop, H&M, the Shops at Columbus Circle, and Uniqlo confirmed to the paper that they'll be open during normal hours. Even Macy's in Herald Square says it will stay open all day Friday, when the pope will lead mass at Madison Square Garden.

Many of the preparations involve heavy security measures, including sweeps of stores near St. Patrick's Cathedral. Employees at Aritzia, Faconnable, and others told WWD Secret Service members had already started the process.

Luckily, the crowds — which a Trump Tower doorman recalled as 20-people deep when Pope Benedict XVI visited in 2008 — won't affect store employees' ability to get to work. An eight-foot temporary barricade will be set up along Fifth Avenue from 48th through 55th streets so that pedestrians can bypass the crowds. But many are still unaware of the specifics of the pope's visit, including which direction he'll be traveling or when. "They wait until the last minute to tell you," Trump Tower executive of security Rich Rodriguez told the paper. "It's the same with NYPD. They will tell you which streets will be closed but they won't tell you which streets he'll be coming down."

And it wouldn't be New York City retail if there weren't an influx of vendors trying to make a buck out of kitschy souvenirs like Pope Francis bobbleheads and T-shirts — even the St. Patrick's Cathedral gift shop will be selling rosary beads, prayer cards, and T-shirts all emblazoned with the pope's image. Welcome to NYC, Pope Francis!