TWH – As COVID-19 mitigation efforts continue into another month, retailers across the United States face serious challenges caused by government-mandated stay at home orders and temporary closures of businesses that have been deemed non-essential.
Neighborhood metaphysical stores and witch shops are no exceptions. Store owners have had no choice but to lay off staff and materially change the way they do business just to put their businesses in the best position to make it through the crisis.
In Laurel, Maryland, Sterling Galen Foxmoore reported that his shop, The Crystal Fox, has been doing a significant amount of business remotely.
“We are closed to the public right now due to the governor’s order, but we are allowed to ship web orders and take phone orders,” said Foxmoore. “It’s given us the opportunity to work on our web site. Our phone orders have also been keeping us busy and between the two of them we’ve been able to make our payroll.”
Foxmoore also cites the shop’s loyal customers and the ability to communicate with them as important factors in his success.
“Social media – Facebook and Instagram – has also been a valuable tool in receiving positive customer feedback which keeps our spirits up for sure,” he explained. “We have a very positive customer base even in these challenging and stressful times. They are really a source of inspiration.”
In Camden, Delaware, Jesse Bishop, owner of Finding Avalon, is enduring a significantly less positive experience, despite his best efforts.
“Business wise, I’m taking a huge hit,” said Bishop. “I had to lay off my entire staff and it cut my revenue drastically. If I’m lucky I make about a third of what I’d make on any given day. I’ve gone from being a shop-able, browsable, open shop to only doing curbside, to now only taking phone orders for shipping, which is expensive, or leaving orders outside my door. On top of making so much less I’m having to pay higher credit card processing fees for manually entered cards.”
Bishop said that he had taken some action, such as applying for grant money and contacting the Small Business Administration (SBA) for assistance but still faces uncertainty for the foreseeable future.
“I need it to come through soon,” said Bishop. “I’m not making enough to survive for months.”
Lisa Anderson, owner of the North Carolina store, Asheville Raven & Crone is also attempting to navigate through a period of business insecurity.
“We were declared a non-essential business by our county government in March, so we are closed,” said Anderson.
“The order is indefinite so I have no idea when we will be able to open the doors for business. Prior to our shutdown we offered customers the option of phoning or emailing orders to the shop and offered curbside pickup. I was able to pay employees for three weeks of the shutdown but have had to lay everyone off this week,” Anderson continued. “The Payroll Protection Program and the disaster relief program that the SBA offers are backlogged and have no idea when they will be able to process loan applications.”
In addition to delays caused by the sheer volume of applications received, the Chicago Sun-Times reported that the SBA is still working to set up an automated system for processing loan requests.
Like Foxmoore and Bishop, Anderson sees internet sales and an increased online profile as potential lifelines for her business.
“We are looking at developing an e-commerce store and putting together a subscription box service,” said Anderson, “but the execution of those options will be dependent on when we can get back into the shop. In the meantime, we are posting to various social media platforms to offer our customers encouragement, magical workings using everyday household items and reminding them that their workings are more important now than ever.”
Anderson also expressed gratitude for the support she and her store have received.
“The employees have been amazingly flexible and supportive of the store and ready to come back, in whatever capacity, when we are able to re-open,” said Anderson. “I, like other retail shop owners, am worried about paying rent and utilities during this period but feel fortunate to have the support of our community.”
In Norfolk, VA, the situation for Diane Foley, owner of Mystic Moon, is very different. Foley has been able to keep her business open because it also serves as a community food bank and has been deemed essential.
“We’re seeing many folks looking for items for protection and healing,” said Foley.
“Our hours are shortened,” continued Foley. “During hours, we have people coming in need of food as well. We also have folks dropping off donations of food curbside.”
Foley explained that though she has been able to remain open for business she has made changes in how the store operates.
“We are sanitizing and disinfecting after every visitor,” said Foley. “We keep strictly to social distancing and let no more than ten people inside at any given time. Faith and practice, and following guidelines set forth are so important to people right now.”
Foxmoore envisions longer-lasting changes to the way businesses like his operate.
“We will most likely have permanent limits to how many people can be in the store at once,” he explained.
As the current crisis continues and spreads to more parts of the country the challenges small businesses face are likely to get worse. Foxmoore, Bishop, Anderson, and Foley all seem to agree that the only certainty going forward is uncertainty.
“How long this lasts is anyone’s guess,” said Foxmoore. “I suppose it’s all up to us and how well we manage this as a whole country. We can go along as we are indefinitely. I imagine this may last until the fall, and I assume there won’t really ever be a new normal, so to speak. Everything we’ve ever done in the past will be affected by what we’ve gone through in these few months.”