As Florida slowly reopened this week, businesses in The Villages indicated the first week was anything but slow at the sales counters. Popular small-business owners like the Purple Pig and the Rustic Rose experienced unexpected strong turnouts, mostly from loyal customers ready to support them after being closed for weeks under the COVID-19 shutdown order. Sales exceeded the expectation of Rosalyn Housley, who owns and operates the independent Rustic Rose home decor and gift store in Brownwood. Over a four-day period, the store sold 735 retail items, said Housley, of the Village of Fenney. “We had a much higher average per day of sales than a typical May day in the six and half years we’ve been here,” Housley said. “We’re so thankful.”
Longtime patrons also pushed sales upward this week at the Purple Pig, a specialty gift, home decor, and pet supplies store at Lake Sumter Landing.
A line of customers waited outside Tuesday for the store to open, said Debbie Heiner, owner and operator of the independent retail store.
By the end of the Wednesday, the store sold out of 1,500 medical-grade facial masks and hand sanitizer that Heiner specially ordered.
“We did about $1,000 in sales on Wednesday, but only $317 was in personal care,” said Heiner, of the Village of Caroline she said. “The day before, Tuesday, we did $1,800 worth of sales, and $1,500 was in personal care. We now have people prepaying for masks.”
The customer response to her gift, decor, and pet supply inventory motivated Heiner so much she resumed backorders on inventory.
“I am ordering cautiously, but I went back and contacted all my vendors that I had delayed my orders,” she said. “So, I called them all backup and to ship everything to me. So, I’m getting in all these orders from February for my spring and summer inventory.”
Several reasons account for the outpouring of consumer support, said Scott Renick, The Villages director of commercial development.
“We’ve got a good mix of products, goods, and services throughout the community approximate to our residents’ homes,” he said. “Our residents also have a long track record of supporting our local businesses. These folks have made the choice to invest in the community, and that investment has paid off well for them because of the support of our residents.”
The reopening also is a testament to the business community’s concern for residents, Renick said.
“We had a large number of businesses that open Monday and did so in a thoughtful manner that prioritizes our residents’ safety, first,” he said. “We’re seeing a gradual increase in activity, and also hearing that those who haven’t open are preparing to do the same. I’m confident that consumer confidence will grow even more as they return to the marketplace and discover all of the safety precautions in place.”
What’s happening in The Villages mirrors activity elsewhere, said Scott Shalley, president and CEO of the Florida Retail Federation.
“Gov. Ron Desantis outlined a thoughtful and measured approach to reopen our state while keeping Floridians safe,” Shalley told the Daily Sun. “In the first few days of Phase 1, we saw really great foot traffic at retail stores across the state, an indicator that Floridians feel safe to get out and want to support Florida businesses. We encourage you to continue to follow the guidelines, but do what you can to support Florida retail stores.”
Those pleased with how businesses are responding include Cathy Nelson, of the Village of Monarch Grove.
The mandatory business shutdown interrupted Nelson’s plans to decorate her home.
When the Rustic Rose reopened, it required customers to wear facial masks and took other precautions to protect her and other customers.
Nelson also found what she needed after months of waiting to decorate her living and dining rooms and dinette.
“I’m extremely pleased it; just all the pretty things in there,” Nelson, a retired public school teacher, said about the store. “She had a lot of colors I wanted to incorporate. I wanted a coastal feel at my house, and that’s what we did. She had many options for me to choose from.”
Customer traffic grew steadily throughout the week at Whole Earth Pet Supply, said Leigh Skinner, owner of the independent retail store at Spanish Plaines Plaza.
“It’s OK, a little slower than normal,” Skinner said. “With what’s going on, we’re doing OK. We’re lucky to be in an industry where pets still have to eat. So, we’re an essential business.” (DAILY SUN)