Challenges Bead Shops Face After COVID-19

Dalmeda Carson Challenges bead stores face during COVID.


Image by Koa Huynh via Bead Center New York

On March 22nd, 2020 I was scheduled to come to New York City for the Whole Bead Show.  A biannual event that showcases bead vendors and suppliers for both retail and wholesalers. It operates as a cash and carry service. Every chance I get, I come to this show for spotting new trends, seeing the latest tools, and viewing demonstrations.  Most of all, there are great bargains. However, like the rest of the world, those plans were curtailed because of COVID-19.  As a bead enthusiast, I’m wondering how will bead stores and shows move forward and begin reopening? I’m accustomed to going in a bead store, getting a tray, counting my baggies, walking through the aisles touching beads on the walls as well as on tables. I need to touch, and view a bead while pondering, will it go with a current project or new idea. Similarly, while at bead shows items are constantly touched (especially at the discount tables) and patrons are in close proximity to each other. 

Bead shopping is a tactual activity. Much like a DJ looking through records to find the best ones, bead shopping involves browsing with hands as well as eyes. Beads are enticing, they can be sparkly or obscure requiring touch to draw a closer look. While shopping for beads and gemstones, I enjoy feeling the weight, viewing the hole size, or laying them out on a tray and seeing how it looks altogether. These are difficult challenges stores and shows will have to think about when reopening. In my opinion, each customer should be supplied a pair of gloves to prevent the spread of COVID-19 as well as wearing masks.  Having gloves on prior to coming inside would not be permitted.  Additionally, increasing disinfecting high-traffic areas such as counters, doorknobs, and restrooms would be beneficial.

I, like many other bead enthusiast spend a lot of time in a bead store or show. Therefore, controlling how many people are in one given location is a definite obstacle. Consequently, remaining six feet apart when tables are stacked with items so close together will be difficult to implement.  Stores may need to re-think current layouts that would promote social distancing. 

Online shopping is a great resource for buying beads. Yet, my best experiences have been in a store.  Bead shopping also allows an opportunity to connect with others in the beading community.  When I’ve had questions on how to end different styles of chain, workers or other shoppers have been there to assist.  Likewise, many bead shops offer classes and workshops to further educate.

These are just some of the dilemmas  that bead shops and shows will face when trying to reopen after COVID-19.  I like most, would love for stores and shows to reopen and want to reconnect face to face with the beading community.  However, shops and shows must create safe solutions to these challenges for their customers to feel secure which will change the way we shop.

Images  by Hew Burney via the Glass and Craft Expo

To learn more about the Whole Bead Show visit their website. 


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