Milan Brewster, Contributing Writer
Store owners are adapting to the mandated closure of non-essential businesses ordered by Gov. Ralph Northam last Monday in response to COVID-19. In Richmond, local boutiques and thrift stores are searching for new ways to serve customers and keep their businesses running.
Some local thrift stores and boutiques are switching to online shopping and delivery, and offering gift certificates for their stores.
“We decided to move our stores online so our customers can shop safely from home,” said Lyn Page, the owner of Ashby and Clementine, in an email. “Doing this also allows us to keep our staff employed, which is our top priority.”
Ashby and Clementine, two boutiques in Carytown, have transitioned to selling clothing only through their websites, as well as on social media platforms such as Instagram and Facebook. Each has a limited number of staff working in the stores, packaging and shipping clothes.
“Conscious consumers are going to look for ways to save money while getting back on their feet,” Page said. “People are going to look for ways to make money. Selling their unwanted clothes is the perfect way to do that.”
The fashion resale market has grown 21 times faster than the retail market in the past three years, according to Fortune magazine. That may give some hope to local thrift stores like Ashby and Clementine.
“We anticipate a huge influx of inventory and new shoppers when life gets back to normal,” Page said.
Some stores are struggling to sell clothes online and pay their employees.
Rumors Boutique, a consignment shop on Broad Street near VCU, has transitioned to online sales through its website and Instagram, and is not accepting consignment buys.
Co-owner Marshé Wyche said in an email that owning a business in Richmond during the university’s summer, spring and winter breaks drastically affects sales.
“When the colleges were canceled and the students left, we lost 92% of our sales,” Wyche said. “I am currently working 16 hours a day converting my store to an online format.”
Wyche said the first thing she did after hearing Northam’s emergency order was contact her employees to tell them the store would close and that she was cashing out her 401(k) so she could keep trying to pay them.
Rumors announced on Instagram that the store will be open from 1-5 p.m. daily, shifting to an appointment-only basis for shoppers to come in and shop privately. Appointments are limited to four a day.