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California retailer weathers the storm of tech layoffs and a “climate pandemic”

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Inside Home/Work gift shop, the white walls are covered in artwork and a wooden table displays linens, dishes and other tableware. Baskets sit under the table.

Sonia McMoran consults her weather app to plan ahead for her store, above. Courtesy of Sonia McMoran

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Consumer sentiment dropped in March for the first time in four months, according to the University of Michigan.

Running a business means adapting to the changing economic climate. You have to plan for the possibility that spending might slow.

And in Santa Cruz, a sleepy beach town that borders Silicon Valley, business owners who depend on tech workers’ dollars are worrying about the growing number of layoffs in the industry.

“For a large population of Santa Cruz that work in the tech industry, it’s in the forefront of their mind whether or not that’s going to happen in the future,” said Sonia McMoran, owner of Home/Work, a gift shop. “And I’ve noticed that there’s been a tightening of purse strings.”

But the economy isn’t McMoran’s only concern. Now when she’s planning the year ahead, she considers how extreme weather conditions caused by climate change can keep customers from getting to her store.

“When I started my business, I never considered that I would have to think about what the weather’s going to be like, McMoran said. “In August of 2020, Santa Cruz itself suffered one of the biggest wildfires that it had ever had. And I kind of had to start thinking about not just how to run a retail business through a medical pandemic, but also through a climate pandemic.”

Most recently, that’s meant the deluge of rain that’s inundated California.

“I’ve really relied on my weather app to help me plan out how I’m going to reach out to my customers,” McMoran said. “So if we know that a big atmospheric river is coming, I know that I need to push on social media the ability for folks to purchase things online and collect them quickly when they’re doing other errands or have us be able to deliver them locally if they are unable to get to us.”

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