The definition of “essential” for a retail store during the pandemic seems to vary a great deal from state to state – the craft beer store across the street from us is considered a priority here in Wisconsin, whereas bookstores are not.  My friend Amy Moore, owner of Little Luxuries on State Street in Madison, has a great response to that.  “Despite being labeled “non-essential,” retailers should find out ways to highlight what they do have available as being supportive during this time. Our industry can offer the emotional support through pampering, distracting, engaging –  gifting in general shows someone you care, and that they are loved.”

Stores that are non-essential are not allowed to have customers come in to shop, which of course drives customers to shopping online, or into stores such as Target and Walmart that are open because they sell groceries.  But despite this competition, I’m impressed by the resourcefulness of my fellow independent retailers in finding ways to serve their customers.  Because of restrictions on the number of employees allowed in the store – and the fact that many of us have encouraged our staff to go on unemployment – many store owners doing an amazing job keeping their businesses up and running almost single handed.  

Amy’s deliveries on her scooter are a case in point. She initially started making all of Little Luxuries’ local deliveries on it, and the photos she posted on Instagram became a big hit.  The store is now getting some additional help with the deliveries as some staff members return to work.  They offer free delivery within 5 miles of the store, and deliveries between 5 and 10 miles of the store are $5 – with the money being donated to the Goodman Community Center. Because shipping can take a while even within the city, Amy said many people are choosing delivery or curbside pickup – and Madison is cooperating by providing two curbside parking spots.

The sales garnered through curbside pickup and even personalized service such as scooter delivery will not go far to replace in-store sales, especially as we approach an important gift holiday like Mother’s Day.   But as Amy Moore suggests, “Providing uplifting, bright, thought-provoking images in your social media posts are important so that you never lose your connection. Now more than ever, strong bonds within the community need to be formed and maintained.”  

Happy Retailing, 

Carol “Orange” Schroeder