Businesses prepare for the holiday season with increased online presence

Over+90+local+businesses+in+Evanston+have+been+adopted+as+part+of+the+community%E2%80%99s+Adopt-a-Shop+Program.+

Daily file photo by Zoe Malin

Over 90 local businesses in Evanston have been adopted as part of the community’s Adopt-a-Shop Program.

Sam Heller, Assistant City Editor

As Evanston prepares for the chills, community and commerce of the holiday season, local retailers are bundling up for a holiday season like never before.

With the holiday shopping season on its way, in-store restrictions due to COVID-19 have prompted many businesses to increase their online presence.

Since Virag Jewelers opened their doors in 1936, the holiday season has been one of the busiest times of the year, but it is unclear how this December will compare to the past, Sales and Design Manager Terri Klauke said.

Currently, the store is only accepting a maximum of five customers at a time. Klauke said over the past few months, the store has made customers wait outside when the building has reached capacity — but winter weather will make this guideline much more difficult.

Virag has also launched an online shop during the pandemic, Klauke said. She hopes the site will attract customers who are concerned about the spread of COVID-19 or do not have time to shop in store, although it has not yet made up a significant portion of the jeweler’s business.

“It’s brand new, so we will see how it works out,” Klauke said. She said Virag Jewelers plans to keep the online shop even after the pandemic.

For other stores, like Guitar Works Ltd, online shops will make up a majority of their holiday business, store manager Larry Brown said.

Currently, Guitar Works is not allowing any customers into the store, and will only be selling instruments and accessories online or through curbside pickup.The business has also been able to sell items through Reverb, a third-party site.

Generally, the holiday season is extremely lucrative for the store, but Brown expects a decrease in business this year.

“The walk-in traffic is usually what brings us the big holiday numbers, but people are just going to have to get used to shopping online for now,” Brown said. So far, the feedback for Guitar Works’ online store has been mostly positive, he said.

Anne McKeown, owner of Anne’s Irish Knits, said selling online isn’t an option for her store. All of her items are handmade, and customers need to be able to try them on in person.

Even though she usually sees the most sales during the month of December, she does not anticipate high levels of revenue this year. Currently, the store is open only two days a week and a maximum of six customers are allowed in the store at a time, McKeown said.

She said she is concerned she will see the same drop in her customer base she has seen since the start of the pandemic. The pandemic has led to a lack of interest in shopping, McKeown said, and she hopes the holidays may prompt more residents to purchase her goods.

“Hopefully maybe by next year it’ll change and we will get our customers back, but people don’t want to come out very much,” McKeown said. “People say to me, ‘what’s the point in buying something to wear if nobody sees me?’”

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Twitter: @samheller5

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