L.A. County Retailers Weigh Whether or Not To Reopen
Los Angeles retailers are navigating between seemingly conflicting messages from California Gov. Gavin Newsom and the city’s mayor, Eric Garcetti, regarding when they should reopen.
On May 4, Newsom mentioned the possibility that some businesses such as sporting-goods stores, clothing shops, florists and booksellers could open by Friday, May 8. May 4 saw a different message from Garcetti, who pulled the reins on Los Angeles shops reopening according to Newsom’s plan.
“Our timing on opening may vary from other parts of the state,” he said. “I will reopen our city with careful consideration, guided by public-health professionals,” said Garcetti.
Many retailers were left wondering what to do next. A handful of them contacted the Fashion District Business Improvement District in downtown Los Angeles to ask for guidance.
Rena Leddy, executive director of the Fashion District BID, said that boutiques cannot reopen until the mayor’s office gives a clear direction. “We’re telling everyone to hold tight. We haven’t been given the green light for stores to do curbside retail,” she said.
Her office has been brainstorming about how to handle businesses opening in areas still in danger of the COVID-19 spread. Her office has considered installing hand-sanitization stations near shopping areas such as on Santee Alley in the fashion district. The city is also trying to figure out how to organize curbside retail delivery in an area with few parking spots for loading.
“Everyone is anxious to get started,” Leddy said. “But we want to make it safe so people can return and go shopping.”
One independent retailer planning to start curbside retail on Friday is Jefferson Wagner, founder of the Zuma Jay Surfboards in Malibu, Calif. Wagner also serves on the beach town’s city council.
He plans to take orders for surfboards, boardshorts and T-shirts by phone and email on Friday and will hand off goods to customers pulling into a parking lot adjacent to his store.
The arrangement of taking orders by phone or online, then taking an added step and delivering goods to a vehicle, is more time consuming than traditional retail. There’s also a danger of handing off goods in a location with heavy, fast-moving traffic. But Wagner has been taking the new arrangement with good humor. Remember store signs that read, “No Shirt. No Shoes. No Service”? Wagner posted a sign for the Friday reopening that will read “No Shirt, No Shoes, No Mask, No Service.”
However, a Friday reopening day may fizzle. Not every retailer on Malibu’s Pacific Coast Highway may open for business.
“A lot of retailers are taking a wait-and-see attitude. There’s a lot of confusion,” Wagner said. “I’ve heard people say that if someone starts business, we’ll probably roll. If not, we’ll probably wait. We all want to do the right thing.”