Across the nation, more people are staying home and avoiding public spaces in an effort to help slow the spread of COVID-19. Though this action is keeping the number of new cases down, it is also having a major impact on retailers and restaurants. Sales are down dramatically, and small businesses in particular are hurting because of the lost revenue.
Mita Bates, President and CEO of the Ardmore Chamber of Commerce, said that while public safety is top priority, there are many ways to support local businesses. The chamber will be introducing a program next week to encourage shopping local.
“It is critical in this current reality that we adopt a ‘new normal’ and realize we can still support our restaurants and retail,” Bates said. “Throughout the history of this community, we have always persevered, and we will continue to do so as the situation evolves.”
Allison Meredith, owner of Moments to Remember, said one of the easiest ways to support local merchants is to make online purchases from their websites. Many area retailers have their own websites and several are currently offering special promotions to increase sales.
“Right now we’re offering free deliveries to customers in the Ardmore Area,” Meredith said. “We’re also offering free shipping from our website and have curbside pickup available. So if someone sees something on our site that they want right away, we’ll be happy to run it out to them in their car.”
Meredith said her business is especially hard hit because a significant portion of her yearly sales comes from prom season.
“Everybody is kind of in limbo right now about if they’ll even be having prom this year,” Meredith said. “That’s a huge damper for us because we do about 75% of our sales in the months of March and April. We’re just trying to make it through and hope to get some business.”
Kori Deaver, owner of The Stag, said traffic inside her store has dropped by about 50%. Their website is also offering some special deals. Shipping is free for any order of $75 or more, and the site has also started using a new service called Afterpay which allows customers to pay for their purchases in four interest-free installments.
“You pay a fourth of it at the time of purchase and get your items right away,” Deaver said. “Then you make a payment every two weeks until it’s all paid off.”
Deaver said customers must sign up with Afterpay, and most people who apply are approved. She pointed out users who miss a payment will be banned from the service, and users will not be able to buy more items until their first purchase is paid in full.
Area restaurants are also seeing a dramatic loss of revenue. Casa Romo owner Daniel Romo said he estimates traffic inside his restaurant has dropped by about 90% over the last couple weeks. He said his restaurant is currently offering curbside pickup on to-go orders. Customers can also have food delivered by the service Door Dash.
On Saturday afternoon, Door Dash was offering delivery for 39 Ardmore restaurants.
Meredith asked the community to come together to help small, locally owned business.
“Everybody just has to do their part to help each other out, even if it’s something small,” she said Friday afternoon. “Today I bought some cookies from Eileen’s to bring to daycare, and I bought a coffee from Main Street. Even though I’m hurting and don’t need to be spending money either right now, I want to do my part to support all of my neighbors.”