BY JESSICA ROE
Business owners swung open their doors and welcomed in patrons for the first time in two months this past weekend, but many fear the COVID-19 capacity limits will put a dent in their earning potential.
“In listening to all of the experts, this is the time everyone is opening kind of with their breath held,” said Kendal Hall, co-owner of be. Life Styled Gift + Home store in the Cherry Hills Marketplace next to Trader Joes. “Now that we’re open today, we’re really seeing the traffic back, which is great to see.”
The Villager visited a dozen businesses in the South Denver Metro Area and found while all are now allowed to open with a limited capacity and workforce, the majority of those reopened were small businesses, such as boutique, locally owned retail stores. Stores must maintain a maximum of 10-people at all times, including the total of all employees and customers.
At REBEL, a nearby women’s clothing boutique store, owner Robyn Bairstow constantly had to manage the store’s capacity limit, as shoppers were out in force once her doors reopened.
“Our customers love our clothes, but even more so, they enjoy the experience. They know us by name, and likewise, we know them by name. They come to us for an experience,” said Bairstow.
Customers were eager to shop hands-on versus drop items into an internet cart.
“I have to try things on, I do not shop online. Honestly I’ve never bought any clothing item online,” said Adriana Genther, who had a handful of clothes ready for the dressing room at Francesca’s in the Streets of SouthGlenn. “I’m out to support businesses, even the food that I’ve been eating has been from these local restaurants nearby.”
Beautiful weather helped get shoppers out and about in recent days, especially to outdoor type markets like the Highlands Garden Center at The Big Toolbox in Centennial. While flowers and landscaping were flying out the door in nearly every shopper’s cart, manager Jamie Wheeler said she has also seen a rush on need-based gardening.
“It has been pretty explosive because people want to know how to garden A-to-Z because they are actually worried about food supply. Seeds are hard to keep in stock because of demand, especially because some of our suppliers – our little seed companies – have had to shut down,” said Wheeler, in reference to the economic downturn.
Nearly all small business owners The Villager spoke with, successfully applied and received Federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act PPP stimulus loan funding.
“We’re fully expecting for the remainder of the year our sales will be at about 50%, that’s our worst case scenario, but it’s very realistic. Our best case scenario is to be down about 30%” said Hall. “It’s not just about the virus. The entire economy has been affected and because we are not essential in peoples’ lives, people will think twice before they splurge on something.”
Other small business owners agree.
“I’m definitely not comparing this year to last year and I think it’s going to just be one day at a time, said Danielle Patton, owner of The Goose and the Goat boutique in Greenwood Village. “We’re really going to have to be cautious with what we buy.”
With nearly one quarter of the workforce unemployed, will these small businesses have enough customers to make ends meet? A new economics survey by the National Bureau of Economic Research found less than 40% of small businesses expect to be open at year’s end. The research also found, “…it is unclear whether the CARES act will enable most of America’s small businesses to survive.” [Source: https://tinyurl.com/caresppp]
As for nationwide chain stores, you can expect those to slowly begin opening by the end of May, that is if they have an exterior entrance. An example would be an Old Navy store in a strip mall, such as the one in the Streets at SouthGlenn. Many Apple stores began opening this week, however likewise, you will see those opening with exterior doors first, such as the one in Aspen Grove, versus Park Meadows, which is inside a mall complex. We do not yet have word on when malls will open given health departments are still working on ways to measure capacity. Anchor stores like Macy’s which have exterior entrances may open before the malls themselves, however most department stores are vague on their websites about any specific reopening dates.
All of these larger stores are also working to get clothing-try-on-plans in place – meaning a way to disinfect clothes tried on in the store in case anyone who may have COVID-19 tried on those pieces of clothing. Some Walmart and Target stores have kept their dressing rooms closed, and in other stores, they have been trying a 72-hour quarantine policy, not returning what you tried on to the rack for a full three days. You may also find this in some small boutiques, some of which are also scanning clothes with Lysol type disinfectants or UV lights.
As for dining, bars, restaurants, gyms, theaters and casinos continue to remain closed under Colorado Governor Polis’s Safer at Home Order, at least until the order is revisited or expires on May 26th. Restaurants are only open for curbside pickup.