Shops look for ways to save business amid the outbreak of COVID-19
By Chen Tong

Many smaller shops are finding they need to make some changes to stay in business in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, especially those selling non-essentials items, such as clothing. 

Qingming Festival, or Tomb-sweeping Day, which happened on April 4, was the first short holiday since the outbreak of COVID-19. Although the flow of strollers along Shanghai's famous commercial area Yuyuan Road was a lot more than it had been for weeks, clothing boutiques are having headaches attracting shoppers. 

A Shanghai based clothing boutique, Element, offers coffee at half price on the first floor while the clothes are on sale upstairs.

"The number of coffee drinkers was only a dozen a day without the discounts, but now dozens, or close to 100, are stopping for coffee every day. Ten or 15 percent go up to the second and third floors and 30 percent of them would buy something," the founder of Element, Benny Zhu said.

In-store revenue isn't well enough for Element to cover its costs. Zhu said the online sales account for 90 percent of current sales compared with 75 percent in the past. Thanks to e-commerce, and the shop now plans to start livestreaming to restore its customer base.

Some shops that never had anything to do with online sales are now being pushed in that direction too. Creative boutique Oshadai has turned to a WeChat group to increase its consumers, now it had 16,000 yuan in sales.

Dai Di, creator of Oshadai said, "If you don't do it, you're just waiting to die." Even though she knows nothing about e-commerce, she said that she will hire professionals at the field and continue do business online.

Whether it's offering cheaper coffee or turning shop attendants into online broadcasters, boutiques are doing everything they can to offset the impact of the virus outbreak, and hold on until customers are more ready to walk through the doors.