CHICAGO (CBS) — Small businesses and restaurants may be planning for the day they can welcome customers inside, but will new habits keep that from happening?
CBS 2’s Vince Gerasole is Working for Chicago, uncovering stories you need to get through this job crisis. He spoke with small business operators preparing for a new normal.
On a sunny day like Friday streets in Evanston would normally be crowded with consumers, but COVID-19 has changed that. Some small business operators are worried the changes may be around for some time, and that could make it harder to stay in business.
“It’s a scary time because we are not going to be able to make a living doing what we do,” said Pascal Berthoumieux, who owns Patisserie Coralie.
In the closed down cafe that once sold coffees and pastries, Berthoumieux now helps his daughter with virtual homework and worries about the future.
“I have good reasons to be worried,” he said. “This isn’t like the 2008 crisis. This is very different.”
As he wrote in a Facebook post that has been seen by thousands in Evanston, consumer habits, he believes, are changing.
“It’s going to have an impact that is going to be tremendous,” he said.
Concerns about sharing public spaces could have them shopping and dining in different environments.
“Who is going to capitalize on the situation are going to be the big retailers, are going to be the large corporations,” he said.
Big box stores have had the pockets to significantly adapt to preorders, pick ups and deliveries. They also offer consumers a variety of goods in just one place.
“We’ve certainly had to reinvent ourselves,” said Sandeep Ghaey, owner of Vinic Wine Company.
At Vinic Wine Company, which was allowed to continue operations, they offer more delivery, and virtual tastings now. They’ve also noticed a different impact from COVID-19 on consumers — the desire to shop local.
“Consumers are thinking about how their dollars are filtering through the economy moreso than they used to,” Ghaey said.
A retail survey found 68% of people shopping local are tipping more than they usually do, but the question is how long they can keep that up.
“Uncertainty is always the thing that is the hardest,” Ghaey said. “We don’t know what it will look like when things open up again.”
And among the small local shopkeepers waiting to reopen, many wonder if they’ll survive in the long haul.
“We are going to see such a drastic change in the landscape of those small town downtowns,” Berthoumieux said.
Federal grants and loans for small businesses were meant to help them survive until consumers returned to stores. But if consumers don’t, and they develop these new habits, those monies for some businesses may have just merely bought them more time.