While stores are eager to reopen — retail sales plunged by record levels in April — there were signs that most shoppers continue to stay home as broader shelter-in-place orders remain. Many business owners have doubts that online sales alone can sustain them, with shoppers still barred from entering stores to browse products. Government mandates for shop workers including 6-foot distancing and masks add to business challenges.
Many of the shops in Haight-Ashbury district were still closed as of Monday morning, with at least 10 reopening. By noon, foot traffic was rising but shoppers were scarce at home good stores My Favorite, said co-owners Sharon Lacayo and Mattias Karlsson. They’ve had some some online orders since March, mostly puzzles and games, but said they expect business to remain quiet even with curbside pickups.
“It’s exciting to hear we can open up again but everyday is a question mark,” Lacayo said, noting that both she and Karlsson had to file for unemployment and laid off two of their employees. “It’s like you’re starting all over again.”
The most activity on Haight Street was a line outside of Nice Kicks, which saw more than 15 people — mostly men with expensive shoes, some in Supreme attire, looking down at their phones — waiting to pick up shoes. One shopper said he always comes to Nice Kicks and was waiting to pick up Air Jordans 1. Across the street, True Sole, another shoe and clothing store, wasn’t faring as well with no customers outside as of Monday morning.
All nine Bay Area counties are allowing outside pickups for all retailers as of Monday, in hopes of reviving a battered economy. On Monday, Gov. Gavin Newsom relaxed some of the criterias to reopening the economy after local leaders said previous state rules were too stringent. Over 13,000 Bay Area retail workers were laid off in just 10 weeks, according to a Chronicle analysis of state labor filings, though many cuts were classified as temporary. Business owners are unsure how many workers they can rehire if sales remains slow.
Chuck Hanhan, the manager of Goodfellas, a smoke and gift shop at 1432 Haight St. that reopened Monday, said he had to lay off more than half of his employees during shelter-in-place orders. “We’re hoping that now we can at least start back up and see how this goes,” Hanhan said as he sold a hemp wick to a customer on Monday. “It’s a trial run.” The store has been getting some business from social media and phone calls, but is hoping for more foot traffic.
In Glen Park, the usually vibrant neighborhood was quiet aside from a handful of AT&T wire technicians outside. There were customers at Canyon Market, Glen Park Hardware and Buddies Market, essential businesses that were allowed to stay open during shelter-in-place orders.
Perch, an eclectic gifts and home accents store on Chenery Street, didn’t attract much foot traffic with its window display of bath sundries.
And Eric Whittington wasn’t able to draw many customers to Bird & Beckett, the book and record store he has owned since 1999. On Monday, he set up a table with hand sanitizer in the storefront vestibule, made handwritten signs and prepared for customers’ social distancing by marking off 6-foot increments with small stools on the sidewalk.
“We’re figuring it out as we go,” Whittington said. “We’re just trying to make people feel comfortable, but it’s probably going to be small for a long time.”
Whittington considers himself fortunate because sales have increased during the shelter-in-place order. He doesn’t have a typical online store and opted to use only phone and email orders and made deliveries himself.
Without federal assistance, Whittington said Bird & Beckett has been able to keep paying both of its part-time employees while they stayed home the past two months. Revenue has risen to $5,000 to $6,000 per week from $4,000 during normal circumstances.
“I’m lucky to have a backlog of people who have ordered books that I haven’t been able to keep up with in my deliveries,” said Whittington, whose business also relies on customers browsing the bookshelves and attending the live musical performances he hosts per week. Now concerts are being streamed online. “Eventually, we’re going to need an audience in here,” he said.
That might take some time. Pariya Coene, a Glen Park resident on maternity leave from her consulting job, was out of the house Monday for one of the first times since her son was born Jan. 18.
She was unaware that retail stores could reopen for curbside pickup and joked that she got scolded in the market for not knowing the rules about social distancing. Coene said her family generally planned to stay at home, where they are renovating their backyard, until there is a coronavirus vaccine.
“We’re not going to change how we behave for now,” she said. “We mostly shop online. I think people are still going to spend money, but this is going to permanently shift the way that we spend money.”
Shwanika Narayan, Rusty Simmons and Annie Vainshtein are San Francisco Chronicle staff writers. Email: [email protected], [email protected], [email protected] Twitter: @shwanika, @Rusty_SFChron, @annievain