Aug. 10, 2020

The industry shows its strength and adaptability amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

When we launched Seaside Retailer in January, we never dreamed that by the time summer rolled around we would be four months into a worldwide pandemic that would dramatically change the way everyone lives and works. Coping with it has proven an extreme challenge for businesses of all kinds, and beach, coastal and nautical retailers were no exception.

There was no handbook for this. After all, the last time a pandemic of this magnitude hit — 1918 — none of us were even alive to experience it. Yet, despite having to completely rethink and re-engineer one’s approach to doing business, the majority of seaside retailers I’ve spoken with have managed to squeeze some pretty delicious lemonade out of the lemons they were handed.

Examples are plentiful. During the period when only essential businesses were allowed to stay open, many store owners used the down time as an opportunity to pump up their online presences. In Put-in-Bay, Ohio, Chris Cooper, the owner of Home Port, a gift store that focuses on nautical home decor on the Lake Erie island, created a website to keep sales coming in. Jennifer Megliore, the owner of Artware, a shop on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, used the time to add hundreds of product photos and videos to her store’s website. Still other retailers took to Facebook and Instagram to post live videos and updates for their customers.

"It’s been a tough 2020 so far by all accounts, but your ability to respond and adapt is a testament to our industry’s resilience."

And when stores were finally allowed to reopen after weeks of being shuttered, their owners took the utmost precautions to keep their employees and customers safe, from offering touchless curbside pickup and hand sanitizing stations to requiring face masks for staff and patrons.

Incredibly, a couple of new stores even opened. Madeleine Philipp opened her third store at a new Marriott hotel in Virginia Beach, Virginia, and Jeff and Tricia Mangrum purchased a store in Venice, Florida. Both stores opened to rave reviews.

It’s been a tough 2020 so far by all accounts, but your ability to respond and adapt is a testament to our industry’s resilience. Tourism has started to pick back up and people have more ways to shop your store than ever before thanks to all the new delivery, pickup and online options you have implemented.

No matter what conditions store owners in coastal areas will face, they can count on the fact that people will always want to be at the beach. As a store owner in one of these desirable locations, you provide these visitors with lasting memories that remind them why they love the coast. You’ve survived the hardest part; now, be proud of how you responded! ■