Page 43 - BusinessWest August 3, 2020
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Visitors to Holyoke Mall are greeted with a similarly wide range of man- dates, from face coverings and six-foot distancing to directional arrows and guidance to wash hands, use sanitizer, and avoid touching products unless purchasing them, said Lisa Wray, the mall’s director of Marketing.
In return, the mall has enhanced its cleaning and sanitizing of the common areas and numerous touch points, rest- rooms, seating areas, and food court, and the cleaning team is utilizing new electrostatic sprayers, leveraging the same technology used to clean hospital rooms, using an approved disinfectant recommended by the CDC. In addi- tion, Holyoke Mall employees, security, housekeeping staff, and contractors undergo daily health screenings.
All those steps were necessary, Wray said, to not only bring customers back, but make them feel safe upon return.
“Having our tenants close with thousands of employees and their live- lihoods impacted is certainly difficult; however, the safety and well-being of our guests, employees, and tenants
is of primary importance,” she told BusinessWest.
“We have been seeing guests steadi- ly return to the shopping center, and even with reduced occupancy, tenants have been seeing strong sales,” she added. “With the back-to-school sea- son upon us and the sales-tax holiday weekend at the end of August, we’re hopeful the months ahead will contin- ue to trend positively. We’re cautiously optimistic that the fourth quarter will continue to ramp upward, as guests
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some very positive feedback,” Beaudry said. “It redirects people to a less stress- filled subject and a little levity, a little beauty. As we’ve always said, the heal- ing power of music is very real, and the longer this pandemic lingers, the more that rings true.”
But to provide that healing power, the orchestra must survive what will almost certainly be its most difficult financial test — although it has weath- ered many over the years, including recessions and even world wars. This one is different, because there are so many unknowns, said Beaudry, add- ing that the pandemic has already forced the orchestra to furlough some staff and reduce hours for those who remain; she personally volunteered to take a 30% pay cut.
“We’ve basically lost a season,” she said, referring to the second half of the 2019-20 season and the first half of the upcoming season — at least. “We have no box-office sales right now, and we still have expenses.”
A Paycheck Protection Program loan helped keep staffers employed for sev-
adapt to this new way to shop.”
Warning Signs
That optimistic view isn’t shared
by the entire retail industry. Just last week, two businesses at the Shops at Marketplace in downtown Springfield — Serendipity and Alchemy Nail Bar — announced they were closing, unable to stay afloat after the forced pandemic closure and an inability to procure business aid from either the federal Paycheck Protection Program or the city’s Prime the Pump grants.
Meanwhile, on a national level, Tailored Brands, which owns suit sell- ers Men’s Wearhouse and Jos. A. Bank, is closing hundreds of stores and dras- tically reducing its corporate workforce as the pandemic continues to decimate the retail industry.
GlobalData Retail recently noted that year-over-year sales of men’s for- mal clothing fell by 74% between April and June, and not just because stores were closed. “While this deteriora- tion will ease over time, demand will remain suppressed for the rest of 2020 and well into 2021 as office working, business meetings, and socializing are all reduced.”
Fortunately for DiRico, the pandem- ic has done the opposite in the golf sector, creating some opportunities
in the form of new players who need equipment — with many of them using stimulus checks to buy it. But there are challenges as well, starting with short- ages of stock caused by closure of fac- tories and then restrictions on capacity.
“Our biggest problem right now
is getting equipment,” he explained. “That’s because most of our manufac-
eral months, but those funds ran out, she went on, forcing the furloughs that were announced several weeks ago.
Moving forward, and with no pro- gram book for the upcoming season and no concerts to sponsor at the moment, the SSO is looking for differ- ent ways to provide value for its spon- sors, and for those sponsors to pro- vide the continued support needed to propel the orchestra to the proverbial other side of the pandemic.
“What we’re hoping is that we can turn sponsorship into a sustainability partnership,” she explained, “where these sponsors are going to philan- thropically help us get over the hump so that we’re solvent on the other side and ready to take our place in the com- munity and on stage when this whole thing is done. And the only way we do that successfully is with the full support of the community around us.”
While sustainability is now the
most critical issue, a related need — to change and broaden the audience base — takes on even more importance in this era of COVID-19.
“We need to remind ourselves that
turers are based in California, where only 40% of the factory is open, which means they can only produce ‘X’ amount of clubs for the world; it’s slow in getting equipment.”
Other challenges include the many the new rules and protocols regard- ing social distancing and sanitizing, he went on. Still, for the customer, things are pretty much business as usual, meaning they can still try on shoes or gloves and take a few practice swings
so, golf has been on the decline. Now, some of the pros I’ve talked with say they’re booked solid.”
with a driver in the simulator. ‘Normal’ is not a word that comes to mind when describing operations
or this year in general, but overall, the surge the game has seen will certainly help make 2020 less forgettable, DiRico went on, and it offers considerable hope for the future — if those who have taken up this difficult, expensive, and time-consuming game can find a way to stay with it.
“For the past 15 years or so, golf has been on the decline,” he said, listing cost and time among the big reasons. “Now, some of the pros I’ve talked with say they’re booked solid; they have tee times from 6:30 to 4. And membership
not everyone is going to get dressed
up on a Saturday night and drive to downtown Springfield from wherever and sit for two or three hours through a concert,” she explained. “It’s a commit- ment to come, so we need to figure out what people want to come to and how we can morph — not that we’re going to change our mission; we’re a classical music organization, and we intend to remain that.
“There are lots of considerations for us to make what we do a better prod- uct,” she went on, adding that, in some ways, the pandemic is amplifying the need for change and perhaps acceler- ating the process. Meanwhile, it is also helping to move the SSO in directions it knew it needed to move, such as virtual offerings, like HomeGrown.
“What COVID did was prompt us to ask, ‘what can we do virtually — how can we reach bigger audiences with a stronger reach electronically and virtu- ally?’” she told BusinessWest. “That is
a new wave of performances. We’re a live-performance organization; that’s really how we’ve focused — how do
we get people to Symphony Hall? But
at the country clubs is up. If these clubs can retain just 15% of these new golf- ers, they’ll be in good shape.”
For Cornucopia, the pandemic offered an opportunity to build an online, pickup, and delivery presence it might not have otherwise, Clifford said — one it will continue to maintain, opening up new business avenues.
“We were thrilled to be able to pivot to that quickly. That’s one thing Jade and I do well, being flexible and doing whatever we need to survive. We’re resilient, and now that we have a strong foundation, if we were ever to experience another shutdown, we’ll be able to continue the cash flow.”
These days, sales volume isn’t what it was on reopening day on June 15, and won’t be until colleges are back
in session. “That’s when you normally see more foot traffic; July is not a busy retail time,” Clifford noted, adding that a weakened tourism season isn’t help- ing, as even visitors to the Berkshires often make their way to downtown Northampton for an afternoon. “That’s not happening right now.”
But he’s cheered that all the Thornes businesses are open seven days a week. “That has caused a lot more consisten- cy in the shopping experience, when the stores are open and welcoming people and wanting them to come in and physically shop.”
And hoping that extended shut- down is a thing of the past. u
Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]
if we can figure out how to best use livestreaming, who can we reach? What does that do for our education pro- grams and our performances, or even the snowbirds who are gone for half our season?”
On a Final Note...
“This music is not in the notes, but in the silence between.”
That’s a quote from Mozart, and it now graces the SSO’s home page in large, bold type.
Not nearly as large and bold as the words “When the Orchestra Returns, Your Seat Will be Waiting.”
That’s a confident pronouncement in itself, with emphasis on the word ‘when.’
“We’ve been around for 76 years, and we’ve been through wars and other disasters, and we’ll get through this, too,” Beaudry said in conclusion. “We’re here to serve; we’re mission- driven. That’s the priority, and we’ll be ready.”u
George O’Brien can be reached at [email protected]
For the past 15 years or
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