Struggling Northeast Ohio retailers choose to go virtual during COVID-19 pandemic

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CLEVELAND (WJW) – Dwindling foot traffic in some of the most popular shopping districts in Northeast Ohio has become the new normal, as consumers remain hesitant to venture out with coronavirus still present.

“When I initially opened, I thought I was gonna change the world selling tutus,” said Lisa McGuthry, owner of Our Favorite Things Boutique on Larchmere Boulevard.

That was 12-years ago.

McGuthry said what helped her stay afloat then was her unique clothing and merchandise. Then COVID-19 struck.

“We had to close down,” McGuthry said. “We were not an essential business so we had to close our business. But, I was asking for some strategy.”

That strategy was taking her business model online. Still servicing local customers, but reaching an entirely new audience; virtually here at home and beyond.

This new business structure has taken shape with the help of a national organization called Score.

With local mentors based throughout Northeast Ohio, they’ve helped small business owners like McGuthry, come up with new and innovative ways to thrive during the pandemic.

Score mentor Robert Cohen said: “Anywhere from 40-to-60 percent of businesses are not going to be sustainable. If you can’t adapt to what’s going on right now, the gap between now and the time we come out of covid is a long time and even though people are able to get loans and money to keep their businesses afloat, it’s very very difficult to do.”

McGuthry’s store remains open to foot traffic, which also helps to keep staff employed.

But online sales for her, could be the ultimate answer for an industry that has yet to fully recover.

“It’s never gonna be the same again, it’s not. I can’t see it,” she says.

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