With creativity, resiliency, and an ongoing commitment to exceptional service, four local businesswomen have successfully kept the wheels turning in their retail establishments. Small businesses have encountered numerous challenges in 2020. Locally owned brick and mortar shops Beachables, Bits & Pieces, Island Expressions, and Paisley, have found the recipe to push forward despite a year of obstacles.
Tierney Boyd owns Bits & Pieces, a tack and home goods boutique on Clements Ferry Road. When asked about the impact the pandemic had on revenue, she said, “Well it goes without saying that COVID was certainly an unexpected curve ball. Our storefront was closed the entire month of April which can be about 10% of our annual sales. This is a rough estimate because unfortunately we also rely on public events such as horse shows, trunk shows, and in-house gatherings to generate sales.”
Dyan Heineck of Island Expressions agreed that the financial and emotional impact of the shutdown was devastating for business.
“Our April end of month sales were down 75% compared to last April. Once restrictions eased we opened back cautiously and today feel that we are poised for a great holiday season,” she said.
Lori Nadelstumph, owner of Paisley, a women’s boutique located on Daniel Island for the past 10 years, said she was forced to close for seven weeks in March and April, and business is gradually recovering from the shutdown.
“When the pandemic hit we had just returned from a trade show where we had obtained purchase orders for our signature Beachables (a beach towel, tote bag, chair cover all-in-one) and our uniquely designed dresses that we make here in Charleston,” said Mary Watters, the creator of Beachables – a manufacturer/wholesaler of beach accessories with a retail shop situated on Clements Ferry Road. “We fulfilled the initial orders, but because our clientele includes resorts and vacation area shops, many of the orders were cancelled or cut. We had to close the doors to our retail location and send our seamstresses home for safety reasons, but also because we no longer had the orders or the funds to continue production of our signature products.”
With vacations and travel halted, beaches and pools closed, Watters witnessed the growing demand for her coastal-themed products come to a screeching halt.
All four retailers said that they transitioned to a heightened online presence using social media and began offering curbside and home delivery. Bits & Pieces and Paisley started new websites to boost exposure.
“COVID was the push I needed to get our business online.” Boyd said. “A website is not for the faint of heart when it comes to retail sales. Our little niche industry has a lot of variety in inventory requirements which is what had kept me from taking the plunge prior. Managing the website is like having a 2nd full-time job.”
Island Expressions began to offer consultations via FaceTime to help customers with their framing needs.
By customer request, Beachables switched gears and began manufacturing masks.
“I spent many hours researching mask-making materials and designs that could be effective and wearable,” said Watters. “We have embroidery capabilities, so we offer custom designs and created a fundraiser platform which we have used with several different schools where we customize specific designs with the school logos, add names, initials for monograms and a portion of the proceeds for each mask is distributed to the school at the end of the campaign. We have helped the schools we have worked with raise more than $2,000 so far.”
Watters said that the masks have been an unexpected marketing tool for the business, as the custom masks have drawn new customers into the store who could then appreciate the other products that Beachables offers.
Retailers are counting on the community to shop locally to rebound at the end of 2020.
“Shopping local has never been more important. I think people don’t understand how impactful it is to a small business to have that one extra customer or that one $5 sale. It seems so small and insignificant but it’s huge to such a small operation as ours,” explained Boyd. “If 50 people make the choice to spend $5 locally instead of in a big box store, that alone keeps the lights on or pays the part-time college kid. It all means something and it means something to someone who lives in your local community.”
Heineck added, “We are blessed that the Daniel Island community is a shop local community. We feel the loyalty and strive to provide products and services that the community asks for.”