Tahoe retail: Trying on clothes during coronavirus times
Special to the Sierra Sun
As more nonessential businesses continue to reopen, people have questions about what’s the “new normal” in certain areas. Take for instance retail clothing stores … Can you try on the clothes? If so, how safe is it? Do you have to wear a mask while you browse?
Here are what two local Lake Tahoe clothing stores are doing to help keep their customers safe.
Located in the Raley’s Shopping Center on 930 Tahoe Boulevard, Panache is a women’s clothing store that also sells jewelry, greeting cards and unique gifts.
Following the Nevada governor’s orders to try to curb the spread of COVID-19, Panache closed in mid-March and reopened Mother’s Day weekend with new health and safety protocols in place.
“We wear masks and let the clients decide for themselves if they want to or not,” said Panache Sales Associate Dede Bedford.
Panache does allow people to try on clothes, and then sales associates steam them after they’re done as well as sanitize everything from door handles to countertops after every use.
Panache is doing about average with what they did in sales at this time last year, besides what they lost while they were closed during the pandemic.
Bedford noted that business dropped a little during the onset of the protests and shipments of orders coming in have been delayed, but that things are slowly starting to go back to normal.
“We’re selling a lot of homemade masks, they’re cloth face masks with cool designs that are a little hipper than the others,” Bedford said.
Along with a noticeable shift in buying behavior, Bedford believes that people are thrilled to have a reason to leave their homes.
“People are just really excited that we’re open, they want to look around the store and are happy to be out and see a familiar face,” she said. “We have a lot of returning customers.”
Panache hopes that as more stores and travel starts opening back up that people visiting Lake Tahoe will consider supporting local small businesses.
Sealed with a Kiss Boutique
Over on the South Shore in the Heavenly Village, Sealed With a Kiss Boutique is a women’s clothing store that generally gets a high volume of visitors but fortunately many local residents come in as well. Like most other businesses, SWAK closed in mid-March and reopened Memorial Day Weekend.
“We closed on March 19 and notified the employees, they all went home and filed for unemployment,” says SWAK Manager Sherri Gibson.
Since its reopening, only one other sale associate out of the three has returned.
SWAK has been careful to not reopen too quickly as they want to do everything right to diminish risking a potential spike in COVID-19.
“We’re not that busy because a travel ban is still set in place here on the California side, we’re doing only about a fourth of the business that we normally do,” Gibson said. “Most all visitors we’ve had here are local. People were excited to be out. Here in our little Heavenly Village, the management of the grounds allowed business owners to set their own hours and reopen when they wanted to. One reason we decided to open is we felt like we were ready.
“We set up the store according to the CDC and local health code guidelines for retailers,” she added. “We don’t require customers to wear masks, but we do have them available for free at the door and we have a one-way entry into the store and a separate exit to manage flow.”
SWAK is also complying with revised health standards by placing markers indicating where to stand for proper social distancing.
Gibson has heard from other customers that they are one of the few clothing stores in the Heavenly Village that are open and allow people to try on clothes, steaming the clothes that they’ve tried on and holding them for at least 24 hours before putting them back out on the floor.
“We wipe down surfaces constantly and only one salesperson is allowed at the register at one time,” she said.
Gibson does believe that many people prefer trying clothes on in person than buying them online, especially since garment sizes tend to vary.
“We have some garments that are large, but it ends up being a youth size that doesn’t fit an older lady, and we have some smalls that are too big to fit a teenager,” Gibson said. “Boutique sizes are never exact. But fortunately, our customers have been so conscious of this situation and they’ve all only tried on clothes that they are really interested in.”
With buying clothes online versus in person, Gibson says, “you never know how they’re going to fit”. Therefore, she believes SWAK sales are being helped by allowing people to try on clothes.
And now that casinos are reopening and they just got word that hotels in California are accepting reservations, that gives SWAK even more reason to celebrate.
“That’s such great news,” she said. “I’m so excited!”
Kayla Anderson is a reporter for the Tahoe Daily Tribune, a sister publication of the Sierra Sun based in South Lake Tahoe.
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