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Three customers at a time: An Edmonton boutique's new normal one week into relaunch
EDMONTON -- As Stage 1 of Alberta’s relaunch strategy enters its second week, boutique shop owners in Edmonton are getting a sense of their new operational norms.
“So far, so good,” said Tara Strudwick, co-owner of Yo Mama Maternity Boutique.
“We're really happy with the way it's going. We've started relatively slowly and we're limiting the number of people in the store, so it's been really nice for us and our customers so far.”
Since reopening its doors Tuesday, Yo Mama Maternity has been allowing a maximum of three patrons inside at a time.
“That allows us to distance with them and then them amongst themselves as well,” Strudwick told CTV News Edmonton.
“It also allows us to sanitize like in between and we could be watching to see what's been touched and we can go around the store and cleanup.”
Since Alberta’s COVID-19 shutdown, Strudwick’s maternity boutique has had to let all three of its staff members go.
“We're not back up to a point where we can hire anyone back so it's just myself and my partner,” said Strudwick. “We're very hands on owners and so we've always been here working in the store so this isn't really big change for us.”
The shop’s hours have been reduced in order to focus on its online store and curbside pickup: services the shop offered during its shutdown period.
“We had to get really creative so we were offering curbside service, we were doing FaceTime appointments with customers where we would come into the store and meet with them virtually and walk through what might work for them,” Strudwick said.
“We were also doing what we call drop and shops,” she said. “We would discuss the customer's needs beforehand, put together like a curated bag of goods, and we would go to their home, drop the bag off at their door and wait outside until they were done and then they could choose from the items that we had dropped off.”
Garments that are tried on but not purchased are stored in the back for 24 hours before being returned to the shop’s floor.
The Yo Mama co-owner says moving back to in-store operations hasn’t been easy, but she thinks they have some things to offer that the big retail outlets are still unable to provide.
“It's definitely been challenging,” Strudwick said. “But I think that a lot of the independents will survive just based on the service that we can provide and the fact that they can just pull up to our door. They don't have to show up at a mall and be confronted with a number of people.”
“We're feeling really positive so we're thinking that shortly we'll be able to extend our hours, bring some staff back and go back to what we'll consider normal,” she said. “But we just don't know in terms of the physical distancing how many people we’ll be able to allow in the store at any given time and so that will be an impact for us going forward.”
“We do have some customers that are still not comfortable coming out to the store,” she said.
Prior to the relaunch, the province issued a list of guidelines retail businesses are encouraged to adhere to.
GOODBYE, BRICK AND MORTAR STORES?
With talk of a second or third wave of COVID-19, some retailers are deciding to pivot their businesses to focus solely on their online platforms.
That’s what Elle’s Closet Boutique owner Michelle Bishop is doing.
“I thought it’s really not a smart decision to renew a lease when who knows what can happen in the next few months,” Bishop told CTV News Edmonton.
Bishop says both her online presence and sales have grown immensely in the past eight weeks.
“It’s kind of made me realize that I don’t need multiple brick and mortar stores to get in front of my girl and show her and serve her and help her shop. I can do it online,” she said.
Even though the new model seems to be working, Bishop admits it comes with a sacrifice.
“It’s upsetting. We loved our little boutique there, we love 124 Street, but I’m not saying we’ll never be back, you never know what the future will bring.”
With files from CTV News Edmonton’s Amanda Anderson.