Sudbury shops shifting their business model to adapt to COVID realities
SUDBURY -- It's been a tough time for everyone, but particularly the small business owner who has had to try and survive a lockdown and a stay-at-home order.
It's led to some creativity as business owners tried to reach customers at home. But now that they can re-open again, it's also led some to shift or re-think their current business model.
"It's been a real treat for us to see customers walk through our door again, I think it's what everyone needed," said Stitch & Stone owner Gabrielle Roy. "I think everyone needed to get out a little bit and we're allowed to see our favourite customers so it's been a real treat."
It's also going to mean a shift in how they do business.
Stitch & Stone had been operating out of two storefronts, but online sales have recently taken off. Due to challenges they faced downtown and a 70 per cent reduction of walk-in traffic to their Cedar Street location, they're going to be closing it in favour of spending their time and energy at one store and the website.
Downtown in trouble
"Our downtown is also in trouble, not to shine any negative light on it," Roy said. "I think there's some work that has to be done down there so that combined with our lease being up this year and our online store doing so well, the stars lined up for us and it was time to make that decision."
Roy said they have a dedicated clientele so she's hopeful people will visit their other location on the Kingsway.
"We're grateful to be open right now, we're grateful for today and for us, it's really one day at a time and just keep on shifting as we need to," she said.
It's a similar story downtown at Reg Wilkinson Men's Wear, whose owner, Todd Wilkinson, told CTV News they were happy to be able to open the doors last week.
"It's been pretty good so far, it's always painful to be closed as long as we have been since Boxing Day, but we just opened a week ago and it's been a breath of fresh air," Wilkinson said. "A lot of our customers are happy to see us, we're happy to see them and I just hope Sudbury can keep up the good work."
Wilkinson said they, too, have made a push toward online sales and as a result, have noticed an upward trend in sales.
"We've always had an online presence, but as of last April, we've really beefed it up and we now have over 2,000 items online and we're shipping product all over the country," he said.
'Everyone's got a nice smile on'
"I think everyone's been shut down for long and pent up at home that it's nice to see them come out and we've had some nice traffic last week, including a big push on Saturday and everyone's got a nice smile on so we're happy to see them back."
That the closure of the Stitch & Stone storefront will mean another vacancy is something that hasn't escaped the attention of Downtown Sudbury.
The local BIA said they're pleased to see businesses doing well during this time and they're hopeful the city won't have to endure another lockdown.
"So our board of directors is taking this time as we speak, literally, taking a look at recovery and how can they be most helpful to our existing members but also our property owners that are experiencing the vacancies and how we can attract and recruit new businesses," said executive director Maureen Luoma.
Luoma said Downtown Sudbury is pleased to see their members are reopening and they're impressed with some of the ingenuity that's been used to attract a new customer base.
She and the other owners said they are seeing more of a trend to shop local and they're hopeful that is something that will continue.