New York City is trying to kick stores to the curb
It is not an uncommon sight to find a table stacked with discount books for sale outside of a bookstore in Manhattan. As the U.S. continues into the next phase of the novel coronavirus pandemic, New York City has been hoping to motivate other types of retailers to take on that method of outdoor selling in order to give customers a safer way to shop and stores a way to keep their doors open.
The Open Storefronts program outlines criteria for NYC businesses to set up shop and conduct business on the sidewalk. The program is open to any ground floor business primarily engaged in selling products to the public, according to the program’s FAQ page. The guidelines it provides include requirements for the appropriate use of tents and umbrellas, the height at which merchandise can be displayed, distance from the streets and so on. The program has been available since early October and ends on December 31. Participating storefronts are not allowed to utilize heating implements outside of their stores.
Despite running webinars, training and speaking directly to retailers out in the community, the city has prompted little enthusiasm for the program, according to a Fox 5 New York report. Only 563 of the 40,000 eligible NYC businesses have applied to take part. Some retailers said that they believed the program was meant for restaurants. Others simply were not aware of it, or did not sign up for fear of having to close down entirely in the event of another full shutdown.
The program was conceived as being similar to NYC’s successful Open Streets initiative, which has allowed restaurants to move some of their operations onto the curb during periods when indoor dining has been restricted or banned.
The restaurant program has remained in place, although one neighborhood on the Upper West Side where it has been particularly popular has reported that some streets are blocked off to vehicle traffic during hours when restaurants are in operation, according to a Patch article from November.
- Open Storefronts – NYC.gov
- Few NYC shops have applied for Open Storefronts program – Fox 5 New York
- Open Restaurant Streets Change On The UWS: What To Know – Patch
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Will an Open Storefront-like solution work for retailers dealing with the likely continuation of COVID-19 restrictions on shopping? Why do you think the Open Storefronts campaign has not caught on like Open Streets: Restaurants and what can be done to address that?