CAN WE SHOP OUR WAY BACK TO NORMALCY?

MORE THAN JUST BUYING, SHOPPING IS A SOCIAL ACTIVITY AND THAT’S WHY RETAIL WILL EVENTUALLY COME BACK 

Online shopping has changed the way many Americans make purchases and put such a strain on brick and mortar retail that many stores have closed. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has further exasperated the problem as many stores furlough their employees. Corporate stores have faired the crisis better as their online presence more built out, but smaller independent stores are still struggling.  

That’s why the Retail Council of New York is hoping a website, www.retailnewyork.com a one stop shop to find boutiques and indie stores that might not have the same brand recognition that corporate retailers do. They are inviting anyone who has a small business to add their name to the registry so that customers who want to  

You can support small businesses from the comfort of your own home. 

Aired on April 15, 2020. 

TRANSCRIPT

HI I'M JENNA FLANAGAN OF 'METROFOCUS' AND TONIGHT I'D LIKE TO TALK ABOUT SHOPPING.

NOW IF MAY SEEM LIKE A SUPERFICIAL ACT BUT WHEN CONSUMERISM PLAYS SUCH A CRUCIAL ROLE IN THE AMERICAN ECONOMY IT'S ACTUALLY QUITE IMPORTANT.

AFTER THE ATTACKS ON 9/11 NEW YORKERS WERE ENCOURAGED TO SHOW THEIR PATRIOTISM AND PATRONIZE BUSINESSES IN LOWER MANHATTAN AND THAT PLAYED A BIG PART IN SAVING SO MANY STORES AN THE NEIGHBORHOOD.

BUT THINGS HAVE CHANGED.

THE PROLIFERATION OF ONLINE SHOPPING HAS CREATED A MUCH MORE CONVENIENT AND PRIVATE SHOPPING EXPERIENCE FOR MANY SHOPPERS, LEAVING BRICK AND MORTAR STORES SOMEWHAT OBSOLETE.

AND THEN THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC HIT.

WITH OVER 90% OF AMERICANS UNDER STAY-AT-HOME ORDERS MANY RETAIL OUTLETS, BOTH BIG AND SMALL, CORPORATE AND INDEPENDENT, HAVE CLOSED THEIR STORES, FURLOUGHING OR LAYING OFF MILLIONS OF THEIR EMPLOYEES.

SO, AS AMERICANS WAIT TO FIND OUT WHEN THE ECONOMY CAN BE OPENED UP AGAIN THE QUESTION FOR RETAIL REMAINS, CAN WE SHOT OUR WAY BACK TO NORMALCY?

SO TO GIVE US HIS BEST GUESS AND TELL US WHAT STEPS ARE BEING TAKEN TO SUPPORT COMMERCIAL BUSINESSES AT LEAST IN NEW YORK STATE, IS THE PRESIDENT AND CEO OF THE RETAIL COUNSEL OF NEW YORK STATE, AND TED, I'D LIKE TO WELCOME YOU TO THE PROGRAM.

THANKS VERY MUCH JENNA.

FIRST I WANT TO START WITH JUST YOUR TAKE ON WHAT THE IMPACT THIS HAS HAD ON RETAIL IN NEW YORK.

IT'S BEEN BRUTAL.

NO QUESTION ABOUT IT.

UNLESS YOU'REA GROCER OR PERHAPS A HOME REPAIR STORE.

THEY'RE STILL OPEN.

THEY'RE STILL ESSENTIAL.

SO WE ARE STILL ABLE TO GO THERE BUT FOR DEPARTMENT STORES, THE INDEPENDENT MERCHANTS IN PARTICULAR THAT WEREN'T DEEMED ESSENTIAL RIGHT OFF THE BAT IT'S BEEN REALLY, REALLY TOUGH.

YOU MENTIONED IT IN THE INTRO.

THERE'S BEEN LAY OFFS.

THERE'S BEEN FURLOUGHS.

AND I THINK THE QUESTION IS STILL THERE, HOW DO YOU PUT THE WHEELS BACK ON THE GROUND AND GET THEM TURNING AGAIN.

I KNOW THEY'RE WORKING ON THAT BUT IT'S GOING TO TAKE SOME TIME.

I WANT TO SET THE STAGE, I TOUCHED ON IN THE INTRO, THAT'S THE FACT THAT ONLINE SHOPPING HAD ALREADY HAD A MASSIVE IMPACT ON BRICK AND MORTAR STORES, THE WAY WE USED TO KNOW THEM.

I MEAN, STORES YOU NEVER THOUGHT WOULD CLOSE.

WE'D SEE A HEADLINE, YEAH, THEY'RE GOING TO CLOSE THE STORE AND JUST DO ONLINE.

YEAH SO MANY OF THE STORES WE GREW UP WITH, YOU KNOW, SUDDENLY THEY START TO DISAPPEAR OR PARE BACK.

THAT ONLINE SHOPPING COMPONENT I DON'T WANT TO SAY IS A DOUBLE EDGED SWORD BECAUSE THAT'S A NEGATIVE BUT THE ONLINE COMPONENT OF THESE BRICK AND MORTAR STORES IS KEEPING THEM ALIVE RIGHT NOW THE FACT THEY HAVE A PRESENCE ONLINE.

20 YEARS AGO ONLY ONE OR TWO STORES YOU KNEW WELL AS AN ONLINE ENTITY THEN IT MIGHT HAVE BEEN A LITTLE BIT DIFFERENT.

BUT SOME OF THE BRANDS THAT WE KNOW BEST AS BRICK AND MORTAR HAVE ACTUALLY BEEN DOING OKAY IN THE LAST COUPLE WEEKS, STRICTLY THROUGH THEIR ONLINE SALES BECAUSE ORDER FULFILLMENT IS SOMETHING THAT'S CONSIDERED ESSENTIAL IN NEW YORK STATE UNDER THE GOVERNOR'S ORDERS.

SO IT'S BEEN VERY, VERY HELP.

. IT'S AN ODD THING TO SAY BECAUSE IT'S BEEN THE THING THAT HAS CHALLENGED BRICK AND MORTAR RETAIL FOR YEARS AND IS NOW ONE OF THE THINGS THAT'S A BIT OF A LIFELINE.

WELL, ONE OF THE OTHER THINGS I ALSO WANTED TO TOUCH ON WAS WITH THE LAY OFFS AND THE FURLOUGHS OF EMPLOYEES, THIS HAS BEEN, I MEAN, THERE WAS A TIME WHEN YOU COULD ACTUALLY, YOU KNOW, BUILD A CAREER IN RETAIL AND, YOU KNOW, WORK YOUR WAY UP FROM PERHAPS WORKING AT A CASH REGISTER OR SOMETHING, AND BECOMING A MANAGER OF THE FLOOR, ET CETERA.

IS THAT A CAREER PATH THAT WE MIGHT SEE LOST?

I DON'T THINK SO.

I THINK, YOU KNOW, IN PARTICULAR, THE STORES THAT HAVE REMAINED OPEN, THE GROCERS, THE HOME IMPROVEMENT STORES.

THE MULTI-LINE DEPARTMENT STORES THAT HAVE A BIG GROCERY COMPONENT OR DRUG COMPONENT THAT HAVE STAYED OPEN, THEY'RE ACTIVELY LOOKING FOR PEOPLE.

I KNOW THE STATE OF NEW YORK, THE DEPARTMENT OF LABOR WEBSITE HAS PORTALS WHERE YOU CAN APPLY TO THESE STORES BECAUSE THEY'RE LOOKING FOR PEOPLE TO WORK AND START CAREERS.

AS FOR THE OTHER ONES, YOU KNOW, I THINK I PREFER THE WORD FURLOUGH TO LAY OFF BECAUSE FURLOUGH SUGGESTS THEY'LL BE COMING BACK.

AND I THINK EVEN IF THESE STORES WE SEE SHUT, SOME OF THE BIGGEST BRANDS IN THE COUNTRY, IT WILL BE A CHALLENGE, BUT I KNOW THEY'RE POINTED FORWARD.

AND FORWARD MEANS THAT THEY WILL OPEN AGAIN.

YOU MENTIONED IN THE IN TINTRO.

YOU MENTIONED LOWER MANHATTAN.

RIGHT AFTER SEPTEMBER 11th WHO WOULD HAVE THOUGHT IT WOULD COME BACK STRONGER AND BIGGER AND BETTER, IT DID.

IF WE START THINKING NOW RETAIL IS DONE AND NOT GOING TO COME BACK STRONGER AND BETTER THAN WE MIGHT AS WELL HANG IT UP.

AND I DON'T THINK ANYBODY'S READY TO HANG IT UP.

I'M SPEAKING WITH PRESIDENT AND CEO OF RETAIL COUNCIL OF NEW YORK STATE.

I WANT TO PIVOT NOW TO THE ACTUAL SOCIAL PART OF SHOPPING.

BECAUSE IT'S NOT, AGAIN, IT SEEMS LIKE SUCH A SHALLOW THING TO SAY BUT THIS IS ACTUALLY PART OF A SOCIAL INTERACTION THAT WE RELY ON ACTUALLY.

YEAH.

I DON'T THINK IT'S A SHALLOW THING TO SAY AT ALL.

I THINK, YOU KNOW, SO MUCH OF SHOPPING, I WOULD SAY THREE QUARTERS, 75% OF SHOPPING IS NOT WHAT YOU BUY OR WHAT STORE YOU GO TO, IT'S WHO YOU GO THERE WITH.

IT'S WHAT YOU DO WHEN YOU'RE THERE.

IT'S THIS BIT OF SOCIAL IN THE ACTION TH DON'T KNOW WHAT YOU GOT UNTIL IT'S GONE.

SO TRUE.

I MISS WALKING THROUGH THE MALL, CAN'T BELIEVE I AM SAYING I MISS WALKING THROUGH THE MALL OR FIGHTING THE CROWDS.

EVERY YEAR AFTER THANKSGIVING IS SO BUSY AND THE STORES OPEN AT 4:00 OR WHATEVER AND THERE'S ALL THESE PEOPLE WHO ARE LIKE, YES, I'M GOING TO GET IN LINE.

WE LOOK AT THAT AND LOT OF PEOPLE SAY, WHAT ARE YOU THINKING, WHY GET UP AT 4:00 TO GO SHOPPING?

YOU'RE NOT.

YOU'RE GETTING UP TO HANG OUT WITH YOUR FAMILY AND FRIENDS.

S THAT SOCIAL ASPECT OF GOING TO THE STORE THAT I THINK WE'VE COME TO MISS.

AND IT WILL BE BACK.

YOU KNOW.

WHEN IT COMES BACK THAT'S WHEN THOSE PEOPLE WHO ARE IF YOU RECALL O FUR -- FURLOUGHED WILL COME BACK TO WORK AND THOSE STORES WILL TAKE THE SHUTTERS DOWN AND WE'LL GO BACK AND WE'LL BE HAPPY.

OF COURSE.

AS YOU SAID IT'S NOT JUST GOING TO BUY, IT'S ALSO, YOU'RE STOPPING AT RESTAURANTS.

MAYBE YOU'RE GOING TO A MOVIE OR SOMETHING.

IT'S LITERALLY.

IT'S A THING.

A SOCIAL THING.

IT'S THERAPY.

RETAIL THERAPY WE CALL IT.

AGAIN WE CAN GET RETAIL THERAPY IF THE BUYING OF THINGS IS WHERE WE GET OUR THERAPY.

YOU CAN DO THAT ONLINE.

IT'S NOT THE SAME.

IT'S NOT THE SAME.

AND PEOPLE DO, YOU KNOW, YOU WANT TO TURN TO YOUR FRIEND AND SAY HEY, DO I LOOK GOOD IN THIS.

AND GIVE THEM FIVE BUCKS WHEN THEY SAY YES.

WELL, I ALSO WANT TO TALK ABOUT THE IMPACT ON INDEPENDENT STORES.

WALKING THROUGH THE MALL IS GREAT AND WAS A DEFINING PART OF MY ADOLESCENCE, BUT ALSO AS AN ADULT I'M FINDING MYSELF MUCH MORE DRAWN TO THE BOUTIQUES ET CETERA, SMALL BUSINESSES WITH SMALL PROFIT LINES.

WHAT'S BEING DONE TO SUPPORT THEM?

WHAT DO WE KNOW, I GUESS.

WELL, WHAT WE KNOW IS THAT THIS HAS BEEN A WHOLE NEW WORLD FOR ALL OF THEM.

REGARDLESS OF WHAT YOU'RE SELLING, BECAUSE A LOT OF THESE BOUTIQUES AND SMALL STORES AND INDEPENDENT SHOPS WERE NOT DEEMED ESSENTIAL BECAUSE IT'S ONE OF THOSE THINGS WHERE YOU DON'T HAVE TO GO WHEN YOU'RE TRYING TO REDUCE THE NUMBER OF MASS GATHERINGS, GET PEOPLE OFF THE STREETS, AGAIN, THE SOCIAL ASPECT OF SHOPPING IS WHERE WE WERE CONGREGATING.

BUT ONE OF THE THINGS WE'RE DOING AT THE RETAIL COUNCIL IS WE'VE SET UP A WEBSITE, RETAILNEW YORK.COM.

AND IT'S VERY RUDIMENTARY.

NOTHING FANCY.

WHAT WE TRIED TO DO IS CREATE A DIRECTORY WHERE THE SMALL AND INDEPENDENT STORES COULD BE LISTED. IF YOU ARE LOOKING FOR RODS LIKE I HAVE RECORDS LIKE I HAVE BEHIND ME.

YOU KNOW, I MISS GOING TO RECORD STORES BUT THERE THEY ARE ON RETAIL NEW YORK.

WE HAVE BOOK STORES.

WE HAVE BOUTIQUES.

WE HAVE COFFEE SHOPS THAT WOULD BE HAPPY TO PACK UP THEIR ROASTED COFFEE AND SEND IT YOUR WAY.

IT'S SO IMPORTANT TO GO TO YOUR LOCAL RESTAURANTS AND BARS AND GET THE TAKE OUT.

. THIS IS THE SMALL RETAIL EQUIVALENT OF GOING TO YOUR LOCAL BAR AND RESTAURANT AND GETTING TAKE OUT.

. THEY CAN ACT AND THIS IS THANKS TO THE WORK OF THE GOVERNOR'S OFFICE AND EMPIRE STATE DEVELOPMENT.

THESE SMALL STORES, YOU CAN'T GO IN THEM, BUT THEY CAN PROVIDE WHATEVER THEY WERE SELLING AT CURB SIDE.

CALL THEM UP.

BECAUSE THEY DO WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU.

AND IF YOU'RE A STORE OUT THERE WATCHING THIS AND WOULD LIKE TO BE LISTED ON THE SITE, IT'S FREE, WE'RE DOING THIS AS AN ASSOCIATION SO WE CAN REALLY GET TRAFFIC INTO YOUR STORE, WHETHER IT'S VIRTUALLY OR INTRODUCE PEOPLE TO WHAT YOU'RE DOING AND THEN WE CAN GO SHOPPING AGAIN.

SO DO BUSINESSES HAVE TO BE A MEMBER OF THE ASSOCIATION?

OR RIGHT NOW, THIS REALLY JUST OPEN TO EVERYBODY?

YEAH, THIS IS OPEN TO EVERYBODY.

WE'RE HEAR FROM A LOT OF THE LOCAL BUSINESS IMPROVEMENT DISTRICTS IN DIFFERENT PARTS OF THE STATE AND THEY'VE ASKED IF THEY COULD BE LISTED AND THE ANSWER IS YES.

AND WE'RE KEEPING THIS OPEN AT LEAST THROUGH AUGUST 31st OF THIS YEAR.

WHETHER YOU'RE A MEMBER OF THE RETAIL COUNCIL OR NOT.

BECAUSE WE WANT, YOU KNOW, WE ARE HERE AS AN ORGANIZATION, WE'VE BEEN AROUND SINCE 1931.

THE REASON FOR OUR EXISTENCE IS TO ADVOCATE FOR THE RETAIL INDUSTRY.

WHETHER YOU'RE SMALL OR LARGE WE REPRESENT EVERYBODY.

AND RIGHT NOW, YOU KNOW, WE GOT TO GET PEOPLE IN YOUR STORES.

ONE WAY OR THE OTHER.

SO, THIS -- YOU NEED NOT BE A MEMBER.

OKAY.

ALL RIGHT.

AND ONE LAST QUESTION ABOUT THIS, DOES A STORE NEED TO HAVE THEIR OWN WEBSITE BUILT OUT.

I'M A SMALL BUSINESS OWNER, MAYBE I'M JUST SELLING CANDLES, I HAVEN'T BUILT A WEBSITE, DOES THAT NECESSARILY HAVE TO HAPPEN?

NO.

OR JUST A PHONE NUMBER.

IN FACT SOME OF THE LISTINGS ON THERE JUST TAKES PEOPLE TO THE FACEBOOK PAGE OR TO A PHONE NUMBER.

IT'S KIND OF LIKE THE YELLOW PAGES USED TO BE.

OH, WOW.

THAT'S A THROW BACK.

YEAH.

BUT IN SOME CASES, YOU KNOW, NO, YOU'RE A STORE THAT DOESN'T HAVE A FULL WEBSITE OR A FULL BUILD OUT WITH THE SHO SHOPPING CART.

YOU CAN TAKE THE CREDIT CARD NUMBER OVER THE PHONE OR BY E-MAIL.

THIS IS HOW THEY'RE DOING IT.

SMALL RETAILERS HAVE GOTTEN OVER THE INITIAL SHOCK A LITTLE BIT AND ARE NOW SCRAMBLING TO SERVE THE CUSTOMS THAT WANT TO BUY THINGS.

YOU GOT THE STORE OWNERS GOING IN SHIPPING THESE ORDERS OUT.

S OF SO YOU NEED NOT HAVE A WEBSITE. IF YOU HAVE QUESTIONS HOW TO ACCEPT CREDIT CARDS OVER THE PHONE, WE GOT A NUMBER THERE, CALL OUR OFFICE AND WE'LL HELP WITH THAT.

TED, PRESIDENT AND CEO OF NEW YORK RETAIL COUNCIL.

GIVE US THAT WEBSITE ONE MORE TIME.

WWW.RETAILNEWYORK.COM.

LISTEN THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR JOINING US AND THANK YOU FOR SAVING ONE OF MY FORMS OF THERAPY.

I LOVE SHOPPING SO MUCH.

I'M GLAD TO HEAR THAT.

WE LOVE TO SHOP AND I KNOW WE WILL AGAIN SOON, I KNOW IT'S COMING.

ALL RIGHT.

THANKS SO MUCH FOR JOINING ME.

THANKS JENNA.

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