After 10 years in Clarenville, Comfort and Class clothing store closed its doors Jan. 15.
“It’s been fun, and I’ve enjoyed it. It’s been hard, I can’t say it hasn’t,” admitted owner and operator Loretta Paul, who says a consistent decline of revenue has made the business no longer sustainable.
“There comes a time when you say ‘this has to stop’”
Paul moved back to the province from Ottawa in 2007 to be close to her parents Lewis and Bride Paul of Come By Chance.
In May of 2008, Loretta, who says she saw a need for a quality women’s clothing store in Clarenville, opened Comfort and Class.
Paul, whose business mantra has been quality over quantity, says her products carried a higher price tag than other clothing offerings because, thanks to quality materials and craftsmanship, they were designed to last for years, as opposed to cheaper “disposable” clothing options that end up in landfills after only months of use.
She was awarded Small Business of the Year 2017 by the Clarenville Chamber of Commerce.
Loretta says the decision to close the business after a decade has been a long time coming, saying she first noticed a decline in sales a couple years back.
“Even when Bull Arm was open, I could see sales going down,” saying that she noticed the dip in sales about a year before the Bull Arm project wrapped up in June of 2017.
She says Clarenville is in the midst of a “perfect stor”’ that makes business difficult; a poor economy, close proximity to St. John’s, and, online shopping.
“Online shopping is playing a bigger role than most people suspect,” says Loretta, noting that anything, ranging from groceries to clothing to electronics, can all be purchased at the click of a button from the comfort of one’s home.
It’s bad news for businesses that depend on getting customers through the doors and making in store purchases.
Meanwhile, Loretta says she fears other businesses, particularly small, locally owned and operated businesses, could also face a similar fate.
“Unless we really appreciate and understand what people sacrifice to be self-employed, and start supporting local and understanding it better, we’re going to lose a lot,” she said.
About her decision to close the boutique, which also employed one other full-time employee (and as many as two or three in past years), she says there are many expensive bills that factor into running a business that not everyone sees. She says there’s internet, computers, rent, insurance, utilities and more.
“We have to make people appreciate what small business does, and what it provides, and what it involves for the person who’s in small business. If not, I’m afraid we’re going to lose more.”