Local retailers getting creative in the face of COVID-19
LONDON, ONT. -- The provincial government allowed retail stores to open Monday for curb-side pickup, only if there is street access to the store. But in London, there is very little sign of that happening on the first day.
The pandemic has forced many businesses to reinvent themselves, “We didn’t start building that online presence until the store closed on the 17th (of March), so it’s been a big learning curve to figure out how we put on everything in our store,” said Gail-Lynn Gastaldi, owner of Richmond Row clothing store Saffron Road.
“We now know, that it does drive our customers to the online store, it's brought in sales, it’s brought in different customers as well,” she added.
Meanwhile, the business on the lower level of Saffron Road, LoftHouse Home Design, will not be moving to a curb-side model, as home delivery has proven to be popular with customers still feeling skittish with the state of the health crisis.
“My husband and I often joke about it, we get a lot of people reply to us, saying they can’t believe how quickly we delivered it to them. Because they’ll place an order in the morning and they’ll have it by 6 p.m. at night. So we joke and call ourselves Lofthouse Prime because we’re so quick,” Jennifer Lofthouse said.
Having a young family, delivery has become a part of their family time.
“We pack everyone up in the car, the dog included, and we drive around the city and make a night of it.”
While some businesses are making the most out of online opportunities, there are other shops like To Wheels on Carling Street that adopted the curb-side model early on.
“We’ve ironed out all the kinks for pickup, and we’re a little ahead of the curve that way,” said owner Sheri Laidlaw, whose business was deemed essential.
The front of the store entrance is blocked by tables, creating a buffer for staff to interact with customers arriving to pick up orders without breaking physical distancing rules.
Customers ring a door bell that has been fastened to one of the tables to alert staff.
“Right now it’s busier than it typically is this time of year, with the different set up as well. So people have been very patient and understanding that,” said Laidlaw.
The cold and damp weather Monday may have played a factor in businesses rolling out a curb-side plan, who could be waiting for warmer weather later in the week to welcome customers (from a distance) back to their store fronts.