Lack of foot traffic hitting Center City businesses hard

Thursday, June 25, 2020
Center City food, retail outlets struggling to survive
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The lack of foot traffic is having a devastating impact on food and retail outlets in Center City who depend on their business to survive.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- A lot of Center City office workers are still working from home and many will continue to do long after Philadelphia goes into the green zone.

The lack of foot traffic is having a devastating impact on food and retail outlets who depend on their business to survive.

Muhammad Khan's food truck sits right across from City Hall, normally a prime location for foot traffic and people looking for something to eat.

"The business nowadays is very slow because not a lot of people in the city, I think they work from home," he said.

Although outdoor dining has reopened in Philadelphia, many businesses are still boarded up, and thousands of the white-collar workers who normally fill these skyscrapers have been working from home with no plans to return soon.

Jefferson University has more than 7,000 employees working from home from it's clinical, university and corporate departments. It will continue to encourage remote work even when the city enters the green phase.

A spokeswoman for Independence Blue Cross says its 4,500 employees will also continue doing telework for the time being.

Temple Fox School of Business professor, Subodha Kumar, says all of this will have a long-lasting devastating impact for Center City for multiple reasons.

"Number one is that many companies who have decided to do remote work, many of the large companies, they're not going to go back to their normal behavior anytime soon, most likely never," said Professor Kumar.

Social distancing and limiting the number of people in office spaces will be among the new norms.

Already the result has forced shutdowns of a number of businesses. Momo's Tree House toy stores in Center City announced they are closing for good. Starbucks also announced it is closing 400 stores across the country.

"You will see that some of these will be moving to suburban areas which is already happening," said Kumar.

Nicole Marquis, who owns a number of outlets including seven HipCityVeg businesses, says she will have to pivot to survive. She has adopted four new online delivery platforms they've never had before.

"And I think digital platforms are a huge important piece of the puzzle to really get out to customers," said Marquis.

Of course, these food truck vendors can't offer delivery.

Khan says if foot traffic and office workers don't come back soon he might be out of a job.