Resilient Los Angeles Retailers Push Forward Amid Stay-at-Home Orders
U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin gave an interview to Fox News on May 10 about the reopening of the economy. When asked if the unemployment rate was close to 25% (rivaling the statistics from the Great Depression, where unemployment was 24.9% at its height in 1933), Mnuchin responded, “[It] could be.”
He explained that “unlike the Great Depression, where you had real economic issues leading up to this, we closed down the economy. So it wouldn’t be a surprise if you closed down the economy, that in half of the workforces, half the people didn’t work.”
Mnuchin said that although things will get worse before they get better, next year will be “a great year.”
Fox then countered his claim with statistics that major retailers are filing for bankruptcy, J.C. Penney being one of the most recent to do so.
Some Los Angeles businesses however, are finding ways to make it through, despite the extended shutdown
Dian McManus, founder of vintage-inspired children’s clothing line Runaway Pony, spoke to Scriberr about her experience so far and what she expects for the near future.
“It’s doable because we are [geared] more toward wholesale as well as retail,” she said. “The production is deemed essential because we are making masks too, but it could be better. The stores [that carry Runaway Pony] are being put on hold right now. Most of them are in the southern part of the United States, though, and they’ve started opening already.”
McManus believes the extended shutdown is helpful to keep customers safe. She stated health should be the top priority, clarifying that, “if we can’t be healthy, people can’t buy.”
As far as financial concerns for her business, McManus admits that “it’s always been there and definitely there will be [concerns] because I’m not sure what the financial situations of the stores are right now.”
She said that inevitably, the possibilities of the stores that sell Runaway Pony items not being able to open will affect their direct orders with her.
Regardless, McManus places her trust in social media to maintain relationships with potential buyers, especially during this time.
“That’s how the world is right now,” she said, “and every time I post something, there’s always an interaction [and] at least a few sales the day of.”
Pilar Witherspoon, founder and owner of beauty apparel boutique Lashes and Seams, agrees that social media is “everything” because “there’s no walk-up traffic [right now] per se, so if you don’t have your business online, God bless you.”
Witherspoon recognizes both sides of the extended stay-at-home order debate. She feels that Gov. Gavin Newsom is doing his best to protect California citizens with this decision, but businesses are going to hurt.
As a licensed esthetician, Witherspoon won’t be able to continue that part of her career until Phase Three of Newsom’s plan. She cannot use the studio where she sees clients, but she still has to pay rent, making it difficult for her to foresee keeping the studio past June.
“It may devastate my beauty studio, unfortunately. I will cross that bridge when I get there, and should I need to close that studio and reopen another one, I will,” she said.
Through the uncertain future of her esthetician practice and the unpredictable sales of her boutique, Witherspoon reminds herself and advises other small business owners to “get scrappy.”
“If you don’t know how to do something, Google it. I am not a social media manager, that is not my auxiliary, but what I am really good at doing is figuring it the hell out.”
I am a huge fan of Facebook groups and I am in a bunch of them with other boutique owners. [We can say], ‘Hey, has anybody dealt with this?’, and you just have this outpouring with things like, ‘Here’s a link’ or ‘Look at this person’s Instagram,'” she added.
Councilmember Paul Koretz of Los Angeles’ 5th District gave Scriberr insight into what he’s been doing on his end.
“We implemented a regulation that small business owners that are struggling, and especially the ones that are completely shut down, wouldn’t have to pay their rent for the next three months,” he said.
After the three months, according to Koretz, the business owners would then need to resume paying their rent while slowly paying back rent for the missed three months.
“I actually have a motion in place [that would allow them] to more slowly repay the back-rent,” he continues. The motion is still waiting to be voted on by the Council.
Meanwhile, Councilmember Koretz has a message for protesters:
“What they want is for us to reopen, but they’re having huge groups – they’re all jammed together, not social distancing – and none of them are wearing masks.”
He urged protesters to not defeat their cause by defying social-distancing orders.