Local businesses surviving holidays despite pandemicDecember 11, 2020
By CHRISTINE STEPHENSON
JASPER — Ann Brosmer wouldn’t usually have to help set up a customer’s baby registry over Facetime. But owning a local business in a pandemic calls for new measures.
During the holiday season, Brosmer has also been texting with customers and posting pictures of inventory on Facebook and Instagram. As the owner of EJ and Dots, a children’s clothing store on Jasper’s downtown square, she’s doing anything she can to keep customers happy.
“We’re trying to learn how to play the game,” she said.
Many local businesses across the country rely on the holiday season for an uptick in customers. The pandemic has left many local businesses struggling, though, leading many to lose profit or even close their doors for good.
However, not all local businesses in Dubois County are strained during the holiday season. In fact, several are seeing even more business than usual.
December is usually Brosmer’s busiest, most profitable time of year. This year has brought in less foot traffic, she said, but more orders being shipped out.
The store isn’t completely empty, though — it’s hard to shop for clothes without seeing them in person, she said.
“Some people are compromised and don’t want to come in at all … but others are shopping like normal,” she said. “And some just want to come in and shop real quick.”
As the owner of another business on Jasper’s downtown square, Maureen Braun of Finishing Touches said her store is also experiencing less foot traffic than normal. However, more customers are calling for in-store pickups and looking at inventory on Facebook.
Nearly everyone who comes into the store buys something, though, and she’s still holding out for what is typically their busiest time of year, Braun said.
“Our last two weeks (of December) are always the biggest,” she said. “We need a big December.”
Braun also noticed that many who do shop in-store just want to get out of the house and browse. As most are staying home and can’t socialize often, some find it comforting to walk around the store and get a few minutes of the “feel-good atmosphere,” she said.
Jayme Rasche of Around the Corner home decor and gift shop in Huntingburg hasn’t noticed much of a difference in business at all. Foot traffic seems normal, he said, and profits are just as good if not better than past years.
The only problem so far has been occasional delays in inventory shipping, Rasche said, which many stores around the country have experienced this year.
“It’s been a pretty good Christmas season, all things considered,” he said. “I’ve been surprised.”
Kathi Mathies, Operations Director at Traditional Arts Today in Ferdinand, said she’s been pleasantly surprised, too.
Traditional Arts Today is a nonprofit that sells more than 50 artists’ handcrafted items on commission. The artists rely on the shop for support, Mathies said, so the organization has been working to please customers, the artists and the Dubois County Health Department all at once this holiday season.
This includes requiring social distancing in the store and counting how many customers are inside at one time.
“We’re very serious about following the health department’s recommendations,” she said.
This is only the organization’s third holiday season, Mathies said, so a lot of people don’t even know the gift shop exists. Recently, several customers have told Mathies that they’ve never shopped there before but wanted to support local business during a time when it’s really needed.
In addition to in-person shopping, the organization has in-store and curbside pickup. The pandemic caused Traditional Arts Today to postpone art classes that the local artists teach, but in general, the store is still making decent profit despite the pandemic, Mathies said.
It’s hard to say how business would look this holiday season without COVID-19, she said, but she’s hopeful.
“Would we have had twice as many sales otherwise? Possibly,” she said. “But it feels like we’re doing well. We’ve got good support from the community.”
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