Plaza shops hit hard by pandemic, experts say adapting is key to survival

Plaza boarded up shops.jpg
Posted at 5:24 PM, Jul 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-01 08:08:50-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Visitors can still be spotted walking around the Country Club Plaza, but there are fewer places open for the shoppers to browse with more empty storefronts during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"People are still reluctant to go out, and rightly so," Lane 4 Property Group Senior Vice President Tom O'Leary said.

That lack of consumer confidence has hit major shopping centers such as the Plaza particularly hard and there's no end in sight for the pandemic without a widely available vaccine.

"Last year, there were 23 bankruptcies, retail bankruptcies," O'Leary said. "This year, there’s 25 already."

O'Leary said even before the pandemic, the trend leaned toward consumers shopping online had hurt brick-and-mortar stores, but COVID-19 shifted that into another gear.

"With the pandemic, it’s accelerated the trend, the trends we’ve already seen ongoing, online shopping," O'Leary said.

Dozens of empty storefronts with black coverings on the windows are easy to spot on the Plaza, but there were also a few others shops that looked like a new business may be moving in.

One of the businesses on the Plaza that is still open is Made in Kansas City.

"We’ve survived," Made In Kansas City co-owner Keith Bradley said. "I would definitely say we’re still in survival mode."

The Plaza location is Made In Kansas City's largest store. Bradley said it's a tough landscape right now as some of the businesses surrounding them have packed up.

"It’s a little unsettling for sure," he said. "It definitely keeps you on your toes and kind of double downs on your efforts to know that, 'Hey, these bigger companies that certainly have more resources and deeper pockets than ours are deciding essentially not to survive or that it's not worth it to be a business.'"

Paycheck Protection Program loans from the Small Business Adminstration have helped, but Bradley also credits the good will of Kansas Citians for helping keep them afloat.

"We definitely have seen and felt the appreciation from the Kansas City community about supporting local and buying local products during this time," Bradley said.

While uncertainty remains, experts believe adapting is the key for businesses to survive during and after the pandemic.

"It’s constantly changing, but the Plaza is here for the long-haul," O'Leary said.

41 Action News reached out to the Plaza for comment, but the shopping district declined our request for an interview.

Johnson County, KS
COVID-19 Video Update