To accessorize and protect: Pretty Poppy puts safety of staff and customers first
When Karen Hayes and Betsy Montgomery opened Newburyport’s Pretty Poppy in 2012, the country was in the middle of a recession, yet they persevered.
“Unbeknownst to us, jewelry and accessories do pretty well during a recession,” says Hayes. “People don’t necessarily go out and spend $300 on an outfit but they might $18 or $25 on a new scarf or necklace and feel really good.”
When Pretty Poppy first opened its doors on Pleasant Street in Newburyport, the success was immediate thanks to the philosophy of providing high value product with a high level of customer service that includes free delivery and free gift-wrapping – all at a discounted price.
“We do a lot of these things that your typical discount retailer isn’t going to do,” Hayes says. “We create a really nice experience for our customers.”
But the COVID-19 pandemic forced them to temporarily close the Newburyport shop in spring 2020, and to close its second story in Portsmouth, NH, for good. By the time Pretty Poppy in Newburyport re-opened in June 2020, it faced an altered business landscape along with the need – and cost – of implementing safety restrictions.
Pretty Poppy has installed plexiglass barriers at checkout stations and four heavy duty air cleaners in the store that run 24-7, and asks customers to apply provided hand sanitizer before entering. The number of people who can go into the 2,500 square foot store at one time is capped, and there is a strict mask mandate.
“We have definitely seen people make an effort to shop small,” says Hayes. “Because people don’t really have many other places where they can safely get out, they are coming into our store because they know everyone is wearing masks and they feel like it’s a relatively safe thing to do.”
“It’s so incredibly important that people keep their dollars local. The big stores have only gotten bigger and they will weather this just fine. It’s the small mom and pop shops that make towns like Newburyport what it is.”
“People who were never comfortable shopping online are now shopping online,” said Hayes. “Our customers’ behavior is changing, society is changing, and we’re going change right along with it.”