COVID-19

Three small businesses weigh in on the pandemic holiday season

Sean McHenry Jan 4, 2021
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The quiet interior of Carr Mill Mall in Carrboro, North Carolina, where Ali Cat Toys is located. Irene Kesselman
COVID-19

Three small businesses weigh in on the pandemic holiday season

Sean McHenry Jan 4, 2021
Heard on:
The quiet interior of Carr Mill Mall in Carrboro, North Carolina, where Ali Cat Toys is located. Irene Kesselman
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It’s been a holiday season like no other in recent memory. And while some analysts are optimistic about retail sales over the last few weeks, what’s it been like for the business owners actually making those sales?

Marketplace has been following several small businesses over the course of the holiday retail season. We called them up one last time to see how it went.

Irene Kesselman, Ali Cat Toys and Books, Carrboro, North Carolina

Inside Ali Cat Toys and Books. (Courtesy Irene Kesselman)

“I’ve just looked at December, and we were down a little bit. Not as much as I thought we would be, and I think, compared to other stores, I consider myself very fortunate. I think it could have been a lot worse. I think one of our saving graces were our personal shopping appointments that we had. We probably had a good 70 appointments, all together, and purchases ranged anywhere from about $45 at the low to $1,000. I am anxious to get things in early because of an early Easter. It’s a great time for toy stores, so I will be looking for Easter baskets in a week. I’m already placing orders while I’m paying my Christmas bills. I think that [the] next six months will be very telling. I’m here for at least another year, and we’ll see how it goes.”

Rue Newby from Label by Three in Phoenix

Rue Newby started sustainable clothing company Label by Three with her sisters two years ago. (Courtesy Newby)

“The other day I wrote an Instagram post letting folks know that we’re having a sale, but also letting folks know that we don’t want them to feel pressure from us or any other brand to buy something. This year has been really hard. You really, probably don’t need to buy anything from us or another company that’s trying to, you know, sell you sneakers. I think we all are feeling … I don’t know if ‘confident’ is the right word. We’re feeling secure. I think when you have a small business, and things aren’t going exactly as you expect them to go, which, that’s been happening all the time now, but I think we have a tendency to panic and try to overcorrect. And I think we’ve learned we need to really analyze what we’re doing and what we want to do with what we’re creating and how we’re running our business.”

Annie Lang Hartman, Compass Paper Co., Leelanau County, Michigan

Annie Lang Hartman, owner of Compass Paper Co. (Courtesy Hartman)

“The past couple of weeks really have kind of just been regrouping, but also we are headed into our busier holiday season, which is Valentine’s Day, because we are a stationery company. We’ve been shipping out orders to retailers, but for just regular customers, that rush starts kind of the end of January because the typical person doesn’t really think about it until the last second, unfortunately. This year what we did differently was shifting our focus from retailers to focusing on regular, everyday customers. Shifting away from putting all of our eggs in one basket was what kept us going.”

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 continues 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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