The push to reopen Wisconsin will only effectively benefit retail businesses if consumer demand returns to pre-pandemic levels. Consumer demand will only return to pre-pandemic levels if consumers feel safe. Some retail demand will return as soon as shops and restaurants open; the marketplace question is whether consumer demand returns to something like pre-pandemic levels.
Even a return to seventy or eighty percent of pre-pandemic consumer buying would prove insufficient for most (if not all) small retail establishments. (Insufficient being a euphemism.)
Reopening’s success depends on consumers’ confidence in their safety. Perhaps most will feel safe; most will not be enough for these businesses. They will need nearly all.
Before the pandemic, small rural towns like Whitewater saw low income levels and increasing poverty. Policymakers in Whitewater concentrated on publicly-subsidized capital projects that did not reverse these trends.
As publicly-subsidized capital projects did not uplift residents’ individual and household incomes over the last decade, a mere reopening during a pandemic will not assure adequate consumer demand among those (mostly low-income) consumers.
Communities will either test frequently and trace contacts effectively (at a minimum), or their reopenings will prove economically unsatisfying and physically unsound.
Any other path is delusional.