How small businesses are preparing for retail-to-go services during pandemic

HOUSTON – Brick and mortar retail stores that were deemed non-essential took a big hit when stay at home orders were issued across state, but Friday could mark a turning point toward normalcy.

As part of Gov. Greg Abbott’s plan to reopen Texas, starting April 24, non-essential stores will be allowed to operate on a “to-go” basis with curbside service.

Small business owners prepare for comeback

That includes Simply Scents Candle Co. on Almeda Road in Houston's Third Ward.

Like a lot of small business owners, Shan Greggs wasn’t sure what would happen to her livelihood when the Harris County stay home order was issued March 24.

“I was kind of in a panic a little bit, not knowing what it may bring,” she said.

But Greggs says she was surprised when her already established e-commerce side picked up, with customers expressing a desire for more candles as a comfort during their extended time at home.

"We started by offering free shipping, then we started offering all these great deals. This was a retail location but we turned it into a shipping and receiving department because we've been so busy online" Greggs said.

She’s jumping at the chance to engage customers -- at a safe social distance -- once more.

"If the customers still get to shop with you, you just have to bring it out curbside, I think it's great. It's still another opportunity for you to be able to hire more workers and to generate more cash flow into your business," she said.

Across the street at Melodrama Boutique, a women's clothing store owned by Jackie Adams, similar feelings of excitement.

“I think there are ways to maintain social distance and give people what they want, which is fashion at this time. So if it means we’re just handing it off to them or they just pick it up without any interaction within the store I think that’s great and it allows a boutique like Melodrama to keep doing what we do without sacrificing safety and health of our community,” said Karissa Rendon, the social media manager for Melodrama.

Turning the Texas economy around one store at a time?

Experts agree "retail-to-go" will be a boon to the local economy, though it's not clear how many big box stores and malls that are currently closed will adopt the program.

“We have the potential, with this as in incremental step, to getting retail physical stores back fully working to impact the unemployment, to impact the amount of money that’s circulating. It’s good for economics,” said Barbara Stewart, a professor of retail and commerce at the University of Houston.

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Emmy-winning journalist, native Houstonian, reader, dancer, yogi.