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Coronavirus: Endless Uncertainty for Small Retailers


Amy Witt, owner of Velvet Window clothing store, at her location in Dallas on May 13, 2020. For small retailers in the US, the coronavirus has turned an already challenging business environment into endless uncertainty.


For small retailers in the United States, the coronavirus has turned an already challenging business environment into endless uncertainty.

Amy Witt may have 20 customers on a good day at her women’s clothing store in Dallas, and none the next day.

“It’s a roller coaster every day,” says Witt, whose store, Velvet Window, reopened on May 1 after being closed since March. “We’re doing everything we can to cover expenses and keep the store stocked.”

Many of Witt’s customers are still reluctant to go to stores, especially since the virus resurfaced in Texas. When the store reopened in May, Witt told The Associated Press that he planned to use private shopping hours to attract shoppers. The strategy has helped, but sales are still well below expectations. Additionally, Witt plans to sell in an open-air market where buyers can feel more comfortable.

Still, the little businesswoman is grateful: There are empty stores in the mall where Velvet Window is located.

Small retailers, especially those selling non-essentials like clothing, are still fighting for months after state and local governments lifted lockdown orders to contain the virus. However, as COVID-19 is still not under control in many areas, there are concerned consumers who prefer to stay at home and shop online or, if they venture, go to large stores like Walmart and Target, where they can buy other things.

Recent government data shows that clothing sales in retail stores fell nearly 36% from May to July. But online retailers and other non-traditional retailers saw their sales skyrocket 26%.

Washington was one of the first epicenters of the virus in the United States and one of the first states to shut down its economy. Ambika Singh felt the impact immediately: her company, Armoire, rents clothes to professional women. Her clients, locked up at home, no longer needed clothes for the office, dinners and business trips.

Singh had to permanently close his two stores in Seattle, knowing they could not be supported, and he has adapted his internet business to meet changing customer needs: now they were looking for different garments, such as shirts to look presentable on video conferences even though they wore sweatpants underneath. .