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How businesses considered essential siphoned revenue from closed shops

Downtown Seattle. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

When certain businesses were deemed non-essential, it may have inadvertently allowed other retailers considered essential to pick up their lost business. Gee and Ursula were joined by Steve Jones, co-owner of Balloon Designers, a shop that handles balloon decorations for various events and has struggled a great deal during the lockdown.

“Even though the official locked down began on March 26, ours really began right around the first of March. In about 90 minutes on March 2, we lost 25% of our foreseeable revenue when Microsoft shut down their campus. To give you an idea, Microsoft hosts anywhere from 120 to 200 events a day on their campuses,” he said.

While he supported the lockdown when everything started, he gradually became frustrated with how it impacted the small business landscape.

“I was in full support of the lockdown when all this started. I really, truly felt like it was our civic responsibility to do our part and accept the temporary situation that it was,” he said. “But as the lockdown continued, it became very clear early on that it was more of a ‘No, we need you to do your part,’ and there was a lot of inequity going on.”

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What he found is that businesses that were deemed essential became able to take a piece of other businesses that weren’t. So in his case, retailers allowed to open were able to offer the same balloon services and products that he couldn’t.

“Even in the world of balloon decor and deliveries, there was absolutely degrees of inequity going on where essential businesses were suddenly offering our services,” he said. “Let’s be very honest, we’re a complete luxury service, there’s no question. Nobody needs what we have.”

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“But candy stores aren’t needed either, ice cream parlors aren’t necessarily essential … Our wholesalers were telling us about how they had record sales, were going out the door of their inventory because essential businesses were picking up non-essential services, and it was very frustrating and it was very disheartening.”

The business is now allowed to reopen under the phase one approach since they’re strictly a work space and don’t have contact with customers.

Listen to the Gee and Ursula Show weekday mornings from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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