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RI retailers forced to close because of COVID-19 shift to online sales

Business News

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Rhode Island’s efforts to stem the spread of the coronavirus is taking its toll on local businesses.

On Saturday, Gov. Gina Raimondo signed an executive order shuttering all non-essential retail businesses until at least April 13, adding that it was not a decision she made lightly.

In-Depth: Liquor stores? Gun shops? Here’s what can stay open in RI on Monday »

With the forced closure, some retailers have shifted their business model by transitioning to curbside and online sales.

Books on the Square, according to manager Jennifer Kandarian, is now primarily selling online, which has come with its own headaches.

“We were trying to be prepared, but of course, it caught us a little off guard,” Kandarian said. “We are coming in early before typical, normal business hours to start on the online orders from overnight and there’s tons of shipping.”

Rhody Craft closed earlier in March. Owner Kim Clark said most of her sales come from foot traffic on Hope Street and without that, her business took a major hit.

“It’s really nerve-wracking because small businesses live on-edge to begin with, so we are being as innovative as we can, but it’s nothing like being open,” Clark said.

“I have three wonderful part-time employees that I had to lay off,” Clark added. “There’s nothing for anyone to do and they were all part-time so I don’t think they qualify for part-time benefits.”

While it’s been difficult, Kandarian and Clark both agree the restrictions are necessary.

“We are such a community space that it is so weird not being part of the community right now and just waving at people out the window,” Kandarian said.

“When this street reopens there’s going to be people out of business and empty storefronts and that’s really heartbreaking, and that’s going to be the case across the country, but I think we have to do this,” Clark added.

Raimondo said the state is providing free tech support for small businesses who need help transferring to online sales.

Need assistance? Call the R.I. Small Business Hotline at (401) 521-HELP

Coronavirus: Coverage and Resources

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RI Coronavirus Hotline: (401) 222-8022 | Work-Related Questions: (401) 462-2020 | Mental Health Assistance: (401) 414-5465

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