Jane Spencer, owner of Fabrications, a clothing store for women on Kenneth Street, has reopened her store with an appointment-only policy during the COVID-19 crisis. (Submitted photo)

Jane Spencer, owner of Fabrications, a clothing store for women on Kenneth Street, has reopened her store with an appointment-only policy during the COVID-19 crisis. (Submitted photo)

It might not be exactly as usual, but business is coming back

Cowichan retailers finding new ways to serve their customers in a COVID-19 world

As large chunks of the Island wait for a loosening in COVID-19 restrictions, a handful of Cowichan businesses are finding another way.

Fabrications, a clothing store for women on Duncan’s Kenneth Street, has been closed for several weeks due to the pandemic, but it reopened earlier this week on an appointment-only basis.

Owner Jane Spencer said she has researched the proper way for stores like hers to operate during the health crisis, and decided a one-on-one approach with the customers, who are required to make appointments, is the best way forward.

She said that, for now, she will be the only staff member at the store during the appointments and she will be wearing a mask.

“I will also be taking the temperatures of the customers and myself before the appointments, I will have lots of hand sanitizer on site and all the clothing in the store will be sprayed and disinfected, as well as the entire store being wiped down regularly,” Spencer said.

“All the protocols of social distancing will also be practiced. I’m taking this very seriously.”

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Outlooks Menswear on Station Street is also in operation by using the “by appointment-only” approach, and is open for appointments from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Tuesdays through Saturdays.

Owner Miles Anderson also said social distancing and other protocols are in place in the store, and he’s currently the only staff member there until business starts to return to normal.

Anderson said the switch to appointments only has received a good response from customers.

“Business is certainly picking up, and I’ve been noticing that there is more than just a trickle of people starting to come downtown again,” he said.

The Old Farm Market & Pottery Centre on Francis Street also reopened in the middle of April after being closed for three weeks as a result of the pandemic.

Owner Robin Knox said she is also practising social distancing and other protocols related to coronavirus, and only allows so many in the store at a time and has introduced one-way traffic to keep people apart.

But she said a lot of the area of the store is outdoors, which makes it easier for people to social distance themselves.

“These are the three months that we make enough for the year, with May being the busiest month,” Knox said.

“The weather has been nice so far this spring and people are now looking for things for their garden, including planters and hanging baskets. We’re currently open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Wednesdays through Saturdays. I’d like to be open more, but I just don’t have enough staff right now. I expect that may change in the next few weeks.”

Spencer said Fabrications has also revamped its website to allow online shopping for the first time, but she believes that her store will fill with customers once again when the pandemic finally ends.

“I think people love the human connection and building relationships, and like to touch the clothes and products they are considering buying,” she said.

“Having online shopping now is icing on the cake, but I don’t think it will replace human contact in this industry.”

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Anderson looks forward to the time when that returns.

“[Provincial health officer] Dr. Bonnie Henry said things may soon be returning to normal [as the COVID-19 transmission rate slows and testing increases] in B.C. and has targeted mid-May, so we’re hoping that we’ll be able to soon return to normal business practices.”

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