Future Fears & Coronavirus
Last week was the busiest week we’ve ever had. As we all gathered up our supplies for the unknown, so many of you planned creative projects to keep you busy and sane. The fact that we were part of your essential preparations made me feel so proud. It felt like the shop is really important to so many of you and I’ve never felt more driven to fight for this business and to keep alive what we’ve created here together. So many new customers joined our community too, seeing this hiatus from normal life as a chance to finally learn to knit, sew a dress or try punch needle. It’s been an incredibly stressful and emotional and manic time and I’ve never had so many reasons to cry, from fear, anger, empathy, exhaustion and hope.
On Friday I listened to the latest briefing live with other shop owners in our group chat. We dissected every word in real time, wondering what would happen to us. Retail shops were not included in the types of businesses required to close as of Friday night and I was relieved. But I know that we’ll be asked to close soon. I’m really scared about that. As I mentioned in our stories this weekend, since we opened this ‘new’ shop we’ve done about 2/3 of our sales in store. Will we be able to turn all of our bricks and mortar customers into online shoppers? Or, at least, enough of them? I worry if going online only will provide enough hours for our current staff and at the same time I’m wondering if we may need to hire in order to have backup for providing consistent online service in case staff can’t travel to the shop or someone needs to isolate. I’m cautiously hopeful that the package of support being implemented for businesses will really provide a safety net. But it’s a lot to figure out.
Another thing I think about a lot is if we should close ahead of any requirement to do so. There has been very little pressure from you guys and in general a lot of support and gratitude from customers that we are open. I’ve talked about the precautions we take - no one gets beyond the entrance without hand sanitiser, we wash our hands and antibac surfaces frequently - and everyone is now participating in the awkward dance of chatting and showing products to customers from a distance. Yes, any time you leave your house there is more risk, but our shop is spacious and what counts as busy for us is not supermarket busy; we haven’t had more than eight people inside the shop at a time since I started counting last week and that’s exceptional. Would the self-sacrifice of closing early make a difference to the curve? Should I be ashamed to want to try to stay open as long as we can, to keep building our own safety net? It’s something I think about every day.
This is hard. Everything is hard! For now, we are planning to be open this week but I am watching and weighing and thinking and considering and stressing out all the time and we may close earlier because things are changing constantly and getting kind of weird out there. Whatever you think about my decisions, please know that I don’t take any of this lightly. And thank you so much for being here.