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Local boutiques hurt by state-wide stay at home order

By Lisa Tindell

Big retailers have a corner on the market since most are allowed to remain open to the public while small business owners are struggling to stay afloat.

Last week, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey issued a “stay at home” order that went into effect on Saturday at 5 p.m. That order stipulates that most businesses must have no more than 50 percent of their allowed capacity shopping at any one time and that other businesses may continue to operate on a drive-through or curbside pick-up service.

Local retailers are banking on the opportunity to continue to serve their usual customers – even under limited and restricted guidelines.

“I think the worst is yet to come,” Melanie McGougin, owner of Jus Do, said. “ I have shortened my hours too from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday. I have been taking signs, banners, plaque orders over the phone.”

McGougin said her inventory of personal and gift items for the home, is one that typically sees in-person shopping. But, because of the current situation, she is now doing more on-line selling than ever before.

“ I am trying to sell online,” McGougin, said “I meet them at the door when they arrive for pickup. Anyone dropping off monogramming, I take at the front door also.”

Jus Do hosts a business page on Facebook and is offering shopping opportunities for those interested in special items, McGougin said. Even though sales are generated mostly through on-line offerings, McGougin said she is still willing to help those who have a need.

“ I have a sign up that reads. I am closed to the public but I am here,” McGougin said. “Just knock or call and I will come help you!”

Even though many activities are limited under the new order put into place by Ivey, there are still people who have a need for new clothes. That’s where Talula Belle’s comes in and they are doing their best to make the best of a tough situation.

Mallery Stanley, co-owner of Talula Belle’s, said the shift in the way her shop does business has been helpful in keeping some business moving.

“We have shifted to selling mainly on Facebook and Instagram,” Stanley said. “We’ve been offering free shipping, personal delivery or patio pickups. We’ve had a good response from our customers.”

Even though business may be a little slower than normal, Stanely said that isn’t stopping her from carrying on as close to normal as possible so that she can serve those who have been faithful to the business.

“We still have new arrivals coming in several times a week,” Stanley said. “We are very lucky and fortunate to have the best and loyal customers. We are all a family and we appreciate everyone’s support.”

Weaver’s Apparel and Fine Jewelry is also working to make sure people can obtain their merchandise in the safest way possible, according to Andrew Clark, owner of the downtown business.

“We are still using our website to offer our products,” Clark said. “At shopweavers.com, we have about 80 percent of our inventory up to view. We’ve been doing that for about two years now and plan to continue that in the future.”

Clark said the store is currently closed to in-person shopping, but on-line orders are still being taken with local pickup and free shipping.

“We have been getting about 20 calls a day during this,” Clark said. “Because of that we have made the move to have someone in the store to take those calls and fill orders. Haley Brown, our part-time employee, will be in the store to prepare things for pick-up and to take payments.”

Clark said the website has an option to pay for ordered items online while phoned in orders can be paid in a variety of ways.

“We can take an order for items and make arrangements for delivery of the item and for payment,” Clark said. “If someone needs something, we can make payment arrangements through PayPal or on-line invoicing and payments. We are working to make sure that we provide our products and services with no human-to-human contact.”

Although Clark said they are continuing to do business, the number of sales has certainly taken a dramatic drop.

“We are off about 90 percent of our usual sales volume,” Clark said. “I don’t know about others, but that’s where we are in this change. We are missing revenue and it puts us all in a tough spot. I believe there is going to be a trickle-down effect with a lot of business. Our suppliers are also small businesses and when we stop buying from them, they have the same issues we have. There’s not much in the government stimulus for small businesses like ours. We are in a tough spot and it’s going to be interesting to see how this all works out.”

Clark, Stanley and McGougin invite would-be and faithful customers to find them on Facebook or at their business websites to see what they have to offer.

“We live in a wonderful community,” Clark said. “We are doing the best we can with what we have and we appreciate the support of this community.”