Editor’s note: Roaring Back to Life highlights local businesses and organizations that have transformed themselves in the wake of COVID-19. To be spotlighted, email intern Cara Chang at email@example.com for more details.
After moving to Aspen in 1998, Keele Lloyd fell in love with consignment shopping. She also wanted to have her own boutique. Combining her two passions, Little Bird was born: a luxury consignment store. Little Bird has added masks, sanitizers and social distancing to its shopping experience, but Lloyd said that the biggest difference from the pandemic is how special it is to simply see people again after reopening in May.
Aspen Daily News: What need do you fulfill in the community?
Founder Keele Loyd: A beautiful, chic environment to resale contemporary and designer goods. A lovely shopping experience that is unique.
ADN: What do you love most about operating a business in Aspen?
KL: The clients and longevity of relationships. How much tourists love being here.
ADN: How did the shutdown affect business?
KL: Here in Aspen we closed in March and did not reopen until the middle of May. In Aspen the March closure was harder than April and May simply because that’s a natural break for us. We got to take advantage of the offseason and work on things that we never have time for, especially focusing on our website, so in that regard it was a real positive.
In Houston it was more challenging because the spring season down there for us is much busier, and they had a really strong rebound when we opened in May. But then with the George Floyd protests we had to close again and that had a negative impact on June just as far as sales go.
But June in Aspen was incredibly busy — I think people were ready to get out again — so we had a really strong June. This July the stores [were] performing well. I knew we would not be on par with last year’s sales, but we’re in a healthy range from my projections.
ADN: Have you seen changes in demand and supply?
KL: No. We’re really fortunate with consignment because we don’t have to rely on manufacturing or designers. We have an advantage because we have a year-round supply. If anything, during COVID-19 people had time on their hands to clean out their closets. We really got hit with a lot of consignment in June when people could start coming in again, so thankfully we weren’t affected.
ADN: How are you reacting to the new business climate?
KL: Our store is faring well. We have multi-channel sourcing online and two locations. We’ve adopted all county and state health guidelines.
ADN: How have your consumers adapted to this new normal?
KL: All wear masks and social distance. We’ve had high volume traffic all summer and solid sales. Our customers have a high return rate and trust us.
So many people were happy just to get out and see familiar faces because we’ve known each other so long; we’ve seen each other’s children grow up. You know people’s lives very intimately in retail sales. I think after having COVID-19 isolate people it was really special to see people again, and that was one of the most notable factors for me as far as a difference versus hand sanitizers and masks. It was more the joy and opportunity to catch up and visit.
ADN: Have you sought federal, state or local aid?
KL: Yes: Aspen Rent Relief, PPP and EIDL (Economic Injury Disaster Loan).
ADN: What do you need to make it through the season?
KL: Keeping the community safe so we can stay open is the main priority. I think that’s the main factor: everyone’s willingness to follow protocol. As long as we’re open, we’re seeing the traffic pour in daily and with some new traction from our website.
[In the offseason], because I’ve navigated it so long and it’s so consistent here for us, I know what to expect. What I’ve seen in the 20-plus years here is that there’s been a big shift from the winter season being huge to the summer season and the extension to September and October. We’ve seen this steady growth during September and October of people who come here knowing it’s not quite as busy. I [also] have a new web director, and that will be a huge factor in the fall. Getting through the fall will be business as usual.
ADN: What does the future hold?
KL: I’m hopeful to expand to Willits [Town Center] in Spring 2021 and continue to grow and be successful.
ADN: What is your favorite thing to do when you’re not managing Little Bird?
KL: Paddleboard, ski and garden with family.
ADN: What would you like to let the community know?
KL: To support small businesses there’s a lot of ordering online you can do. Remember that your local businesses are run by people that need your support. Please keep that in mind and adhere to safety measures that allow us to stay open.