Some businesses are thriving in the midst of misery due to COVID-19

SEATTLE – In a recent national report, numbers show how severe the suffering is for many businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. Retail sales fell more than 16-percent nationwide last month. Clothing stores took the biggest hit, plunging 78 percent. Electronics tumbled 60 percent. Bars and restaurants sank 29 percent. In the midst of the misery, some businesses are actually thriving.

Friday, the staff at Seattle E-Bike fully opened the store for their regular business hours for the first time since Washington’s Stay Home, Stay Healthy order. Owner Brian Nordwall said his team is trying to keep up with the demand for electric bicycles ever since the West Seattle Bridge closed.

“Our business was probably before 10-15 percent of west Seattle, which is pretty good. But now it’s 50 percent. People in west Seattle are getting the message,” said Nordwall.

For weeks, the store was working with reduced hours and staff. Though the shop was deemed essential, Nordwall said they struggled.

“We got hit hard even in February and our sales dropped 60 or 70 percent for the month of February compared with the preceding year,” said Nordwall.

The store owner said the month of March hit them the hardest, seeing a 92 percent loss in revenue. Now the business is bouncing back as more people buy electric bikes to get around the bridge closure.

Nordwall said even while business was slow, his store had safety measures in place to reduce exposure to coronavirus. Now that sales are quickly picking up, he said they are increasing those measures to keep staff and customers safe while complying with the governor’s Safe Start Washington plan.

“Whenever anybody brings their bike in for service, we meet them outside, we take the bike in, we immediately sterilize it. Then before we turn it back over to them, we sterilize it again,” said Nordwall.

Keeping a sterile environment is priority at Kush 21 in Burein now that the store is seeing more customers than before.

“Sometimes it feels like it’s more than we can handle,” said Kenny Pleasant, chief operating officer of Kush 21.

Pleasant said all four of their stores have seen a 45 percent increase in profit and sales during the pandemic. Pleasant said they added more masks, gloves and hand sanitizer to keep the influx of customers and staff safe.

“We also installed sneeze guards, as well as offered the opportunity for any of our employees who did not feel safe during this time to stay home and not be penalized for not coming to work,” said Pleasant.

The pandemic also has more people trying their luck, as representatives from Washington’s Lottery said they have seen an uptick in scratch ticket sales. Representatives said the money will support K-12 grade education programs statewide.

While Washington’s Lottery is encouraging people to play responsibly, staff also suggest customers buy tickets only during necessary shopping trips. A statement from a representative said in part, “Consolidate those trips as much as possible, and want to remind players that they can check their tickets on our mobile app instead of coming into a store and continue to play responsibly.”

The Washington State Economic and Revenue Forecast Council publishes monthly reports on its website. For the month of April, the report said taxes on real estate sales came in almost 10 percent higher than what was predicted earlier this year. Also, the April report said liquor tax came in more than seven percent than predicted.