Neighborhood Goods, which calls itself an evolution of the department store, announced the summer launch of a platform called "The Commons by Neighborhood Goods," which would provide businesses affected by the COVID-19 outbreak to apply for free space in their storefront.
Though the retailer typically charges a fee and a percentage of profits for brands to set up shop within its stores, Neighborhood Goods will waive its fee and charge a smaller percentage for businesses in accordance with the company's size and product type, according to the company's announcement. The retailer also noted that it would collect a small percentage of sales from restaurants taking part in the program.
As part of the initiative, the retailer will also let businesses host job fairs for local employers, and will host community events, decorate the spaces with local artwork and feature live local music. The program will run for as long as businesses were forced to close because of the pandemic, the company said in its statement.
Neighborhood Goods joins a growing list of companies looking to help small and mid-sized retailers affected by the coronavirus outbreak by offering up services on the cheap. Small retailers and brands have been hit particularly hard by the pandemic, but platforms like Builder.ai and eBay have stepped up to help small businesses with their transition to digital, while others have offered up their technology for free to ease some of the pain as the outbreak sweeps across the U.S.
In the interim, Coresight estimates that more than 15,000 stores may close permanently by the end of the year, and analysts from Wedbush and Morgan Standley don't anticipate e-commerce filling the gap left behind by brick-and-mortar customers.
Neighborhood Goods is announcing participating brands, artists, and chefs over the coming weeks. Its goal, as noted in its statement, is to create space for local and national businesses that have seen their businesses disrupted by the pandemic, whether it be through wholesale orders being canceled, revenue or logistics disruptions, or other issues.
"We want to provide a platform for all in an effort to offer an avenue back to normalcy; a place for people to come together, safely, in support of their community," the company noted in its statement.
However, it's unclear what "normal" will look like once stores reopen. It's uncertain when stores will be able to reopen, and the consumers returning to them may be changed by the pandemic.