B Vicki M Yng and Kae Nihima
Wih less than a week until Election Day, high-end retailers from Manhattan to Beverly Hills are taking precautions to guard agains the potential for civil unrest at a time when many are still desperately hoping to recoup the mountain of lost sales from Covid-induced lockdowns. Some retailers are still uncertain as to what their exact plans will be, wtih many considering boarding up their stores, closing early or even not opening at all.
Over on the West Coast, brands and boutiques across the state of California are also preparing for the impact the election could have on their ability to conduct business.
The California Retailers Association has taken a slightly more cautious stance, according to group president Rachel Michelin. The organization, while not actively pushing a campaign to address the potential for violence and looting around Election Day, has heard rumblings of concern from its members. Michelin has had conversations with California’s state administration in recent weeks and said the issue is on its radar.
“Not knowing what happens or frankly when we’ll know for sure, I think it’s unfortunate that now part of doing business is that business owners have to put up plywood to protect themselves,” she said. “I think you’re going to see businesses doing that here in California just because they’ve learned,” Michelin said, referring to the social upheaval that took place earlier this Summer.
“We’re hoping that we don’t see that, but I think we probably will,” she added, noting that certain cities and counties might see more activity than others. “In those parts of the state, law enforcement is engaged and best practices are out there.” Michelin said that looting is a crime of opportunity, though she hinted that she believes California could see more protests if one candidate in particular wins out over another. “We’ve gotten to the point where the M.O is if you don’t like what’s happening, you go out and loot,” she said. “For us, we’ve learned lessons because of what happened in the past in Los Angeles, Sacramento and other parts of the state, and I think people will be more proactive in preparing.”
Should small-to-medium size businesses get hit hard this week, Michelin worries that it will be a fatal blow to many. “National retailers have more resources to recover more quickly and the smaller retailers don’t.”
“Los Angeles retail businesses are operating at 25 percent capacity in accordance with social distancing guidelines, Michelin said, and have already been hobbled by these regulations during the lead up to the holidays. “This is a make or break time for some of them,” she said.
Should the election prove to be socially explosive, “they could suffer another huge loss from looting, not just from a monetary, but a mental perspective,” Michelin said. “If you’ve owned a business and navigated through Covid and have been able to regroup from the civil unrest we saw before, you’re looking to recoup some costs and continue on to turn a corner next year. If they get hit again, you might see retailers say it’s not worth it anymore. I’ve heard that from a lot of small business owners.”