The Pandemic of 2020
2020 Pandemic, Business Loss and Reinvention
Without question, the Pandemic of 2020 has brought the greatest threat and challenge to the company. No one knew in January just how bad this was going to be or for how long it would last.
Marc chose to close the store a week before the State of Vermont imposed a mandatory shut-down of non-essential businesses. The staff were becoming more concerned each day with the risks they were exposed to in the store and based on that, early closure was the only course of action. Marc was able to pay the entire staff for the first 2 weeks while everyone adjusted to the situation.
The store remained closed for 10 weeks. During that time, Marc secured financing and loan extensions that would support the business and his staff for the short term.
During the closure, Marc received an opportunity through The National Retail Federation to work with QVC to tell his story, to talk about the business, the Stowe community and the effects of the pandemic. After a month of preparation, interviews, filming, editing and learning to use video conferencing, Marc appeared on four spots in May on QVC and HSN. Though he could not directly sell specific items, the QVC hosts gladly promoted the store’s website and before he concluded the 11:00 PM spot, the Stowe Mercantile website crashed! The fervent followers of QVC came through and, in the end, placed over 500 orders through the website. This one event created enough revenue to help reopen the stores on May 22nd and bring the staff back to work.
Since then, the business has slowly re-opened and has been able to re-institute some of the signature parts of the business. There’s limited in-store food sampling, the fudge is back, and the fitting rooms have re-opened but the photobooth, the piano, gondola and the checkerboard are still closed.
The crowds are not nearly as strong as they once were but guests to the stores are spending and the business continues to recover. Enough so that the entire staff received raises in July and were given additional paid time off to recognizer the stress they have all been under and to thank them each for doing their part to help the business survive.