In wake of restaurant closures, other businesses also affected or fear they might be next
By Mindy Lucas
Nan Sutton has had to get creative.
The Bay Street retailer who owns Lulu Burgess was looking for a way to showcase her store’s latest offerings – from stuffed Easter bunnies to colorful puzzles – and thought why not do a virtual tour.
“I just thought, you know what, we’re going to have to adapt,” she said.
For businesses like Sutton’s that normally rely on the personal touch or in-person experience, adapting seems to be the operative word.
Adapting to less foot traffic. Adapting to social distancing. Adapting to uncertain economic times.
So Sutton, who is no stranger to social media, has begun shooting videos that detail her store’s merchandise.
She’s also offering to mail or ship purchases to customers or can take phone orders for those who see something they like in the videos and want to run by the store for a quick pick up – all done at a distance of course.
“My first instinct was if they can’t come in, I’m going to come to them,” Sutton said.
At Beaufort’s downtown marina where tourists are normally seen queuing up for a carriage tour, business has been slow or nonexistent, said Rose White, owner and operator of Southurn Rose Buggy Tours.
As White explains, hers and other horse-drawn tour companies work with bigger travel and tour companies who will book White’s tours in Beaufort anywhere from six months to a year in advance as part of a traveler’s tour package.
March through May is the tour company’s busiest time of the year.
“About 48 percent of our business comes from those three months,” she said. “You make your money at a certain time, and then you have to make it last for the rest of the year and to pay all your bills.”
But last week, things for Southurn Rose started to unravel.
“I had 75 buses to cancel in about a week’s time,” she said. The company, which has been in business for 20 years, has never not had a spring, she said.
“We are totally in shock over this whole thing. It’s like one day we had a good season planned, we were training employees, everything was going smoothly, and then the next day the door is shut.”
Early on, they tried to adapt by having tourists sit apart on the carriages or riding with just members of their own party, but it’s been difficult, she said. Walk-in bookings are down since there are hardly any tourists in town, and with no riders, they can’t send carriages out.
White has already to had to lay off three employees and is now playing it “day by day” fearful that if hers and other tourism-related business like hers don’t make it through the spring, they may not return when the outbreak subsides.
In the last four years, we’ve had a hurricane every year, but we’ve survived,” she said, adding that at least with a hurricane, there’s an end in sight.
“But this? This isn’t like anything we’ve ever seen before,” she said. “This is something completely different and we don’t know how long it’s going last.”