TRAVERSE CITY — The prospect of a pandemic autumn spent — as one local retailer quipped, “staring at the four walls” — has a lot of shoppers spiffing up, even on a national holiday.
Jay Reynolds used to kayak with friends; this Labor Day found him building a new front deck at his Silver Lake home.
“We spend more time at home than we used to, it’ll be a three-season deck — then again, you never know,” he said, about the possibility of sitting outside even after the leaves are off the trees.
Labor Day traditionally marks the psychological end of summer. Beach vacations are over, cottages closed up and kids back to school.
But this isn’t a traditional year, retailers say.
People are used to planning for colder weather that will keep them inside more.
With cancellations of future family meals and social gatherings a likelihood for many, home decorating retailers say its no wonder residents are looking askance at their home’s interiors.
“Bedrooms, kitchens, I had one customer in here for the supplies to paint all their kitchen cupboards,” said Brian Salisbury, manager of Maxbauer Ace Hardware, at Chums Corner.
“They’re fixing sinks and canning from the gardens too,” he added, “but we’ve sold a lot of paint.”
Hardware, furniture and home decorating stores have all reported big jumps in sales over the past six months, stated information from Marketwatch, a Dow Jones business data website.
“Its pretty obvious what’s happening,” said Clark Pomeroy, owner of Pomeroy Home Furnishings on Scotchwood Lane in Grawn. “Our sales are way up. I’ve got things on order I just hope get here by the holidays.”
Pomeroy said the most popular items in the store have been upholstered furniture like recliners and couches — a store specialty — and TV stands.
If people are spending increased time inside, they at least want to be comfortable doing it, he said.
For those who want something repurposed rather than new, sales of used and refurbished furniture and accessories are on the increase, too.
“Desks are one thing that are going really fast right now,” said Colleen Berger, who with her daughter, Claire Kerk, are vendors at a vintage furniture store on Eighth Street in Traverse City.
“People are tired of having their kitchen table be their office,” Kerk said. “It’s like, this isn’t going away yet so let’s make the best of it.”
EB2 Vintage opened in August after its precursor, Empire Blu, also on Eighth Street further east, closed after the March shut down order. The new store is smaller, and displays some inventory while making other pieces, called “The Rosie Collection,” available “on demand.”
“It’s a pivot,” said Carla Weaver, EB2 Vintage’s owner. “What it allows us to do is share not only what’s in the store but what my vendors have in their homes, their barns, their garages. It wouldn’t have happened without COVID but it allows us to have much a bigger inventory.”
During the shut-down order Weaver sold the chalk-style brand of paint her store retailed, Bungalow 47, online and would leave it on her porch for customers to pick up. Now she retails the paint in her store again and offers painting classes every Tuesday from 6-8 p.m. or by appointment.
“I want the store to be a soothing space, now more than ever,” she said. “I want you to be able to just come in and feel calm for the hour you’re browsing. We need that.”