On March 10, 2020, Rouge Makeup & Nail Salon had just finished renovating a new a space that was seven times bigger than the salon’s first studio in Ferndale.
The renovations were meant to expand the salon’s retail business, Eve Organic Beauty, a makeup line co-owners and sisters Cheryl Salinas-Tucker and Jeny Bulatovic had taken over the previous year.
That same day, Michigan confirmed its first two coronavirus cases.
Four days later, the sisters shut down the salon and were left scrambling to figure out how to provide manicures, facials and makeup tutorials under social distancing guidelines.
“We thought, ‘How in the heck are we going to do that?,’” Salinas-Tucker said. “We touch people all day.”
The salon remained closed for four and a half months. The impact was not only on the service end, but on retail sales as well, given that Eve Organic Beauty’s biggest client was the salon itself.
With no in-person services to offer, the sisters switched entirely to the makeup and skin care brand, creating or repackaging a total of 500 products. They revamped the existing website for E-commerce and entered into a new phase of business.
“It’s been such a weird year because it’s not just a pivot, it’s a flip,” Salinas-Tucker said. “We flipped our business because we can’t make up for those service dollars that we lost.”
In comparison to last year, Eve Organic Beauty sales are up 200% and the company is shipping product across the country.
The salon is back up and running with limited services, but Salinas-Tucker said it’ll never be the same business.
“It’s not going to be the same and then the question is: Do you want it to be?” she said. “I’m not nostalgic for 2019. I’m excited for 2021 and 2022.”
More consumers are now accustomed to shopping online, and that trend is unlikely to reverse.
The Michigan Retail Association, which represents 5,000 businesses throughout the state, saw E-commerce platforms, virtual storefronts, and curbside and home delivery significantly increase among small and independent retailers, said Jennifer Rook, the group’s vice president of marketing and communications.
The association tracked home delivery data through shipping company PartnerShip and found that total shipping revenue was up 28% year-over-year for MRA businesses in 2020.
Additionally, FedEx Home Delivery services grew 170% for MRA businesses in 2020, following a similar national trend of 166% growth in buyer-to-consumer shipping, according to PartnerShip data.
The National Retail Federation reported online sales increased 21.9% in 2020. In previous years, online shopping accounted for about 7% of total shopping volume.
Small business owner Lindsey Miller-Clark opened her boutique, Urban Bird & Company, as a way to be a part of Cheboygan’s downtown growth. She was staunchly against running an online business out of fear it would detract visitors from spending money locally, she said.
When COVID-19 hit Michigan and the stay-home order was put in place, Miller-Clark held out on ramping up online shopping. She paid the March rent with savings and hoped the virus would leave as quickly as it came.
By the end of April, the reality of the pandemic was setting in and Miller-Clark knew the business would fold without an online option.
“I didn’t have a choice. I felt like I had to stop being so stubborn,” she said. “It wasn’t about what I thought was best for the community anymore. It was: My business has to thrive.”
Using Facebook, she started Friday sales in which she would feature items for pre-order or list inventory still in the store and have shoppers comment on what they wanted. With free shipping and local porch deliveries, business was reignited, she said.
By the time the store reopened for in-person shopping in June, products had been shipped across the state and the country, Miller-Clark said.
Now, the store’s larger social media presence is here to stay, she said.
In-person sales have increased due to social media exposure and the store fared well enough that 2020 revenue ended up almost even with the previous year, Miller-Clark said.
“I was quite frankly just blown away,” she said. “It was a lot of work. I spent a lot of time on the computer figuring out all of this, but we wouldn’t be here today if we didn’t do it.”
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