Little Birdies Boutique was only open for a few weeks in Tysons Galleria before the coronavirus pandemic forced its now closure. Now, the shop is hiring as it prepares to reopen.
The boutique, which sells kids’ clothing from newborns to size 10, first opened in D.C.’s Georgetown neighborhood in 2014 before expanding to Tysons earlier this year.
Shanlee Johnson, the owner and founder of Little Birdies Boutique, told Tysons Reporter that online sales, loans and grants have helped keep her business going.
“We’ve always had a strong online presence,” she said, adding that her online sales have doubled since the pandemic.
“Our online sales have been a lot of swimsuits and sandals and shorts and picnic blankets,” she said, adding that she expects popularity to increase for those items.
But the increased online sales can’t make up for the store closures: “It’s not the same as having two stores [open] and online.”
In a normal year, Little Birdies Boutique sells twice as much merchandise during March-May than the rest of year, she said. But this isn’t a normal year.
“March and April [sales] were basically what I do in January,” she said.
In addition to the online store, Johnson said she’s offering virtual in-store shopping, which has been a hit with older customers “who haven’t picked up the online presence.”
While Easter was “rough” since customers weren’t buying dressier clothes, Johnson said people are shopping for extra pajama sets and loungewear or stocking up for next year. Her private label, Pineapple Sunshine, “has taken off even more,” she noted.
To help make up for the decreased revenue, Johnson said she’s been able to negotiate her rent and received a Small Business Administration loan and grant from D.C.
Now that both of the stores are temporarily closed, Johnson said she has settled into her 11 a.m.-6 p.m. workday routine to fulfill online orders: go to Tysons in the morning to pick up clothes, head to D.C. for more clothes and then go to the post office.
“It keeps me busy,” she said. “There is no one at the mall.”
As Johnson awaits information on reopening dates for both stores, she’s looking to hire one to two full-time employees and a few part-time employees for both the D.C. and Tysons stores.
“The Georgetown store was a lot of students,” she said. “They all left to go home. We didn’t do any major layoffs.”
When the store does reopen, she expects the mall will have shorter hours and keep offering kiosks of hand sanitizer. “We’ll require masks and I’ve always been a cleaner,” she said.
Since both of her stores are small, she said she is working to figure out how to maintain social distancing, although she doesn’t expect “tons of people.”
She expects the Tysons location to maintain its appeal among her clientele of new moms, grandmothers and friends of moms-to-be.
“We carry boutique brands, international pieces,” she said. “They are not department store brands.”