Why reopening may not be worth it for some retailers

Published: May. 12, 2020 at 4:11 PM EDT
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Retail stores in Vermont are allowed to reopen their doors next week under strict guidelines. But for some, it might not be worth it. The Burlington Business Association says there was one vacancy downtown before the coronavirus hit. Now, they think there will be 10 by the end of May. Our Ike Bendavid went downtown to see how stores and shoppers are doing.

In preparation for retail stores reopening, crews are giving Church Street a spring cleaning.

And as the economy slowly opens back up, shoppers say they're ready

"I'm pretty excited," said Susan O'Kane of Hinesburg.

O'Kane says she has been doing curbside pickup since the pandemic broke but she can't wait to go back inside a store.

"These guys, they can lose everything if we don't support them," O'Kane said.

According to the governor's orders, businesses will have to follow strict safety guidelines: Only 25% occupancy will be allowed and employees will have to wear masks.

Stores are excited, too.

"We just want our customers back," said Helen Moslander, the manager of the Free People clothing store.

Moslander says they plan to count people coming in and out of the store so they don't have too many, even locking the door if they hit capacity.

"It will be a new normal," Moslander said. "But I think it's something we are excited for."

On College Street, Home & Garden Vermont is considering its options.

"We are trying to figure out how we want to do it," said Jack Qualey of Home & Garden Vermont.

Putting them at a disadvantage compared to Church Street merchants-- there is a lot less space for outdoor merchandise.

"If five people tried to have access to the same sale table, that would violate the six-foot distance requirement," Qualey said.

"We are trying to learn a new way to do business and that's never easy," said Kelly Devine of the Burlington Business Association.

Devine says the city is working on a plan to allow downtown retailers to use up more of the sidewalk. Right now, a permit is needed.

"I think that's going to be an essential part of our ability to roll back up into business," Devine said.

Even so, she thinks some retailers are going to sit out Monday's grand reopening.

"I definitely think some businesses are going to decide to not open because, for them, the equation just doesn't add up," Devine said. "They may wait till the next level of the spigot."

And we're all waiting to find out when that is.

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