As people stay at home, small businesses struggle
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It’s a little before noon Thursday at Rothmans, an upscale menswear shop that sells suits, casual wear, and offers custom tailoring. The store’s been open for a couple hours, and things have been quiet.
“There’s really no foot traffic,” said co-owner Ken Giddon. “We’ve had a couple of appointments that came in, but we’re in a spot here where we can really watch Union Square. As I’m standing here, there’s literally nobody walking down the streets,” Giddon said.
The dropoff in foot traffic is a clear sign that the coronavirus is starting to affect the real economy. Businesses are seeing a drop in foot traffic as people stay at home. Cities, states and the federal government have started to announce plans to help small businesses keep their doors open.
Rothmans has been cutting back on orders to make sure it doesn’t have too much inventory. Ken’s brother, co-owner Jim Giddon, said they’re also reaching out to customers they know who might want to buy something. Still, he said it’s a careful balancing act.
“You have to be respectful of the customers, because they’re all going through the same thing we’re going through,” Jim Giddon said.
About an hour later, a couple of shoppers had trickled in, but traffic wasn’t much better. At one point, Jim Giddon and another employee tried ordering more hand sanitizer, without avail.
That’s our number one priority now, to try and find supplies to keep our customers healthy, and keep us healthy,” Jim Giddon said.
By 1:30 p.m., store traffic still hadn’t improved. Ken Giddon says revenue is down roughly 60% to 80% compared to this time a year ago.
Rothmans has been around for decades, and has withstood other disasters, such as Hurricane Sandy and the Sept. 11 attacks. But the uncertainty of coronavirus right now has him concerned for his 28 employees.
“What do you do when the decision is do you go out of business or try and pay your employees,” Ken Giddon said. “We’re not there, but if this thing lasts four months, we’ll be there. This week, New York City announced zero-interest loans for small businesses seeing big drops in revenue. Ken Giddon has already applied.
COVID-19 Economy FAQs
Millions of Americans are unemployed, but businesses say they are having trouble hiring. Why?
This economic crisis is unusual compared to traditional recessions, according to Daniel Zhao, senior economist with Glassdoor. “Many workers are still sitting out of the labor force because of health concerns or child care needs, and that makes it tough to find workers regardless of what you’re doing with wages or benefits,” Zhao said. “An extra dollar an hour isn’t going to make a cashier with preexisting conditions feel that it’s safe to return to work.” This can be seen in the restaurant industry: Some workers have quit or are reluctant to apply because of COVID-19 concerns, low pay, meager benefits and the stress that comes with a fast-paced, demanding job. Restaurants have been willing to offer signing bonuses and temporary wage increases. One McDonald’s is even paying people $50 just to interview.
Could waiving patents increase the global supply of COVID-19 vaccines?
India and South Africa have introduced a proposal to temporarily suspend patents on COVID-19 vaccines. Backers of the plan say it would increase the supply of vaccines around the world by allowing more countries to produce them. Skeptics say it’s not that simple. There’s now enough supply in the U.S that any adult who wants a shot should be able to get one soon. That reality is years away for most other countries. More than 100 countries have backed the proposal to temporarily waive COVID-19 vaccine patents. The U.S isn’t one of them, but the White House has said it’s considering the idea.
Can businesses deny you entry if you don’t have a vaccine passport?
As more Americans get vaccinated against COVID-19 and the economy begins reopening, some businesses are requiring proof of vaccination to enter their premises. The concept of a vaccine passport has raised ethical questions about data privacy and potential discrimination against the unvaccinated. However, legal experts say businesses have the right to deny entrance to those who can’t show proof.
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