For many people trying to make their businesses work during the pandemic, COVID brought a harsh reality: fewer customers and masking mandates simply meant less business. This was especially the case for small, street-level retail stores.
For those opening these businesses in 2020, the prospect of building a customer base was even harder. For many of them, staying open has proven to be too much.
A Colorado Springs entrepreneur, who opened her first business during the beginning stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, is shutting the doors of her downtown storefront amid continued slow retail sales.
CPR News has been following Rebecca Moon and her small clothing boutique, Moonbeam Clothiers, since its start in May 2020.
The shop was a long-held dream for Moon. She signed the lease for her downtown space in February 2020 with plans to open in March. Of course, that was when the initial surge of the coronavirus shuttered the world economy. She delayed opening for two months. Still, Moon said her carefully curated store has been a drain on her energy and finances since day one.
“A year of just trying to think of different marketing strategies and events and just trying to do things to get people in the door and nothing working makes me not really want to keep trying,” Moon said, referring to the retail sales side of her business.
Attempting to make the boutique successful, the 27-year-old tried a number of things to bring more customers and to keep money coming in. She even added back her former job as a bartender to stay out of debt.
“I don’t want to sugarcoat it because it was a really, really tough year and there are definitely businesses that are actually still struggling,” said Laurel Prud’homme with the advocacy organization Downtown Colorado Springs.
It’s been a similar story for main streets around the world as customers increasingly turned toward online retailers while stuck inside their homes. Brick and mortar stores that weathered the pandemic may still be holding on in hopes of a make-or-break holiday season this year.
Despite all of this, Prud’homme said the overall trajectory of the city’s downtown is actually positive. Her organization gave out more than a half million dollars in grants to buoy small companies and a number of ‘buy local’ efforts gained traction.
Twenty businesses opened in downtown Colorado Springs in 2020, even with the coronavirus. So far this year, 30 more shops have opened their doors. Meanwhile, she said fewer than 10 downtown businesses have closed since the start of the pandemic.
Also, even if the retail store will shut down, Moonbeam Clothiers will live on. The majority of Moon’s income since opening has been generated by the sewing machine she keeps in the back of the shop. She’s even made masks for other local businesses during the pandemic. Moving forward, alterations, tailoring and custom-designed clothing will be her honed-in focus from a smaller space in nearby Old Colorado City.
Moon is quick to say she does not see the downtown location as a failed experiment. Rather, she describes it as a critical step in building her brand as she is now relying on word of mouth and people coming across her online in order to generate business.
“Having this space where people could come in and see what I do without specifically seeking it out really helped me get to where I am now and kickstart things,” she said.
Moon is now attempting to sell off her retail inventory at a discount before closing her downtown space entirely by Oct. 1.