Rebuilding America: Canton-area retailers launch effort to restart – Massillon Independent

Rebuilding America: Canton-area retailers launch effort to restart  Massillon Independent

Quarantines hammered retailers as they closed down while residents stayed at home. The march back has started with businesses adjusted to a new set of rules.

After 40 years in business, Dave Traphagen had found his niche and believed he was immune to economic downturns.

Trap’s Sports Center, a sporting equipment supplier in Alliance, had managed through the Great Recession without serious problems. As a supplier to area high schools and local sports leagues, Traphagen’s customer base always had a need.

The coronavirus pandemic hit Traphagen’s business during its strongest seasons — baseball and softball. Schools closed and youth leagues shutdown. His customers didn’t need shirts or balls for games that weren’t being played.

“I never in my life dreamed something like this would happen,” Traphagen said.

Thousands of businesses — including Trap’s Sports Center — around Ohio closed in March and remained shuttered for seven weeks. As a result retail sales in the United States dropped more than 16% in April, as a result of government stay-at-home orders and fears of possible infection.

Nearly every retail segment saw sales drop during April. Clothing sales plummeted 79%, while sales of electronics and appliances dropped 61%, furniture dropped 59% and specialty store sales fell 38%.

Observers hope April proves to be the worst month for retail sales and that consumer spending rebounds, as most states begin to lift restrictions and reopen businesses.

“But what matters is the public health response to the coronavirus pandemic and whether consumers feel comfortable going out in public,” PNC Financial Services Group Chief Economist Gus Faucher said in a prepared statement. “Also, businesses continue to lay off millions of workers a week. If layoffs do not abate, and the job market deteriorates further in the near term, sentiment could again fall in the near term.”

Reopening, however, means retailers will have to deal with changes aimed at limiting the spread of the coronavirus. Employees are wearing masks and gloves, tracking the number of customers entering stores, and wiping down fixtures with disinfectant.

Retailers deemed essential and allowed to remain open during the shutdown had a head start on adjusting.

Lucas Staten, retail manager for Mohler Lumber & Building Materials in Jackson Township, said the changes were challenging.

“Sometimes we found ourselves doing things on the fly,” he said.

While the store remained open, it has reduced hours. Nightly cleaning has been expanded to include disinfecting.

“We’re doing all we can to stay safe,” Staten said.

Holleydale Farms in Jackson Township had more issues with the weather than with coronavirus, said Rita Oser, the business owner. She had to cancel an annual spring open house because it would have been too difficult to meet social distancing requirements.

More shoppers are seeking vegetables for gardens this year, Oser said, adding that concerns about food being available in grocery stores seems to be driving the demand.

“A lot of these people are gardening for the first time,” she said. “You can tell they never had a garden before.”

Mulch, soil, stone and other landscaping products were in high demand at Mohler, Staten said. Paint also proved to be a popular item as customers furloughed from their jobs found projects to keep themselves busy.

Mohler saw more customers than usual during the shutdown and Staten suspects it’s because the business was among the few retailers allowed to remain open. As more retailers reopen and shoppers have a broader range of choices, Staten expects things will calm down.

It’s been a slow start for Trap’s Sports Center since reopening on May 12. But 40 years in business has prepared Traphagen for the unexpected.

“I would hate for someone who just started in business to experience this,” he said.

Ohio has cleared the resumption of non-contact sports, which means baseball and softball travel leagues can resume in June. That has brought back some customers. But fall sports remain up in the air and Traphagen doesn’t expect answers will be coming soon.

Source: indeonline.com

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