COVID-19 Effect on Local Economy: CLT Boutique

COVID-19 Effect on Local Economy: CLT Boutique

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Britt Gooding’s mobile boutique business CLT Boutique is expanding.

"Through the course of a day, you feel so many emotions and excitement, and nervousness, and yeah, a little bit of fear," she says.

Fear tends to come with new ventures, but COVID-19 is magnifying that for new retailers. Gooding is expanding from that mobile boutique in a renovated trailer, to brick-and-mortar.

"[The mobile boutique] didn't seem like a big scary risk because it happened over time," she says. "Where as this is like, it's here, it's happening."

Local retailers that are expanding like Gooding are experiencing unique challenges keeping the business they have going, while trying to physically grow their business during COVID-19 restrictions.

“One thing is being a mother and not having childcare,” she says. “And honestly, that was the biggest part, trying to figure out how to, even though I didn’t have a storefront open at the time, still trying to grow my business while being at home with a toddler...so I would stay up to 3:00 or 4:00 a.m., and it would be fine, and I’d just get my work done then.”

CLT Boutique is one in a line of new retail spaces on South End’s Winnifred Street.

“It was just kind of the most perfect opportunity,” Gooding says. “Every retailer in here, it’s kind of an incubator for small business, where there’s low entry to get started, they’re small spaces, the rent is relatively low, they deliver you a vanilla shell space, so basically in theory you can walk in with your Square reader and products and you can open your store.”

Financially, she says, it has been an interesting time, and a time to make critical choices about her business spending.

"'Do I really need this?'" she asks herself. "It's going to be, probably, bare necessities for a while. I have all these grand ideas, but it might be something that has to happen over time."

Many small businesses including local retailers entered the loan process early into COVID-19 restrictions. Many have not heard anything back.

"I applied for several, I didn't get any of them," Gooding says. "I applied for the EIDL and never heard anything back. I tried for the PPP with Wells Fargo and another local company that was doing it, and I didn't get either of those either...I don't personally know anyone who got any of those loans. I feel bad, but it does make me feel a little better, but then it's so confusing when you read articles on Forbes about these big chain restaurants and Ruth's Chris and all these other people getting tons of funding, and you're like, 'Well what about me, what about the little guy?'"

Gooding, like so many others, has been focusing more on online sales, without as many pop-up events to bring her mobile store to. Her new South End neighbors have been helping.

"Charlotte is such a great community for supporting small business, and I think it's a huge focus around here," she says. "April was my best month of sales, but then May and June have kind of trickled down some, so I feel, I don't know, I'm trying to figure out what it is, have people just kind of lost steam with the small business type thing, or is it more people unfortunately losing their jobs? There's so many variables it might be, but I think the local economy in Charlotte is definitely going to bounce back quickly, I hope so anyway."

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