PACIFIC COUNTY — As soon as the checks hit, they started buying.

Local retailers across a wide spectrum are reporting a rise in sales as a result of the recent round of stimulus checks that began hitting bank accounts last week, spurring consumer spending.

The most recent round of stimulus checks, which included up to $1,400 per person, plus $1,400 per child and adult dependent for those who met income criteria, was part of the American Rescue Plan, a $1.9 trillion relief bill. The stimulus follows two previous during the pandemic, including the CARES Act, a $2.2 trillion bill that included $1,200 checks last spring, and the Consolidated Appropriations Act, which included $920 billion with $600 stimulus checks in December.

Each stimulus package injected increased spending in the local economy, local retailers said.

A new spring

Last spring a prominent gift shop in downtown Long Beach was wallowing in uncertainty, wondering if it would be their last.

A statewide order by Gov. Jay Inslee issued in spring 2020 called for restrictions on non-essential businesses and social gatherings to help stem the spread of rapidly-rising covid-19 cases, and the news, albeit understandable given the circumstances, came as a gut punch to local businesses gearing up for the more lucrative spring season.

Today however, NiVA Green owner Heather Ramsay is happy to report that she’s restocking her shelves with her latest creations and eagerly welcoming customers new and old, many of who are returning for the first time in months with cash to spend.

“With stimulus checks I notice more people coming out and coming back for that one thing they really wanted but couldn’t afford,” Ramsay said in between customers during a brisk day of business on Monday, March 22.

“Maybe it’s a fancy bandana, it’s not huge things, but it’s the $14 bandana with beautiful print rather than the dollar store bandana. I think people are treating themselves a little bit, which is nice to see.”

Ramsay said the stimulus has helped make a difference for her boutique gift store, located at 104 Pacific Ave., in downtown Long Beach.

“Ultimately I make money and I go and spend that money, so it’s stimulating the economy, I think,” Ramsay said.

It was almost a year ago when Ramsay said she experienced some of her toughest months as a small business owner.

“The first two months, during the total shutdown when we didn’t know anything, I was very scared. I was actually plotting my demise.”

A season of success

The pandemic has presented unique challenges and opportunities, including the local home and garden industry, who are reporting a ‘boon’ as customers have sought to reinvest in their home and surroundings.

“For the gardening industry it has been a boon because everyone is at home, has free time and want to work on their home property,” said The Planter Box co-owner Teresa Millner.

“Pride in homes has happened, you can also see that with the hardware stores.”

While the pandemic has reinvigorated interest in Millner’s business, now entering their 50th season at 12702 Pacific Way in Long Beach, it has also presented unique challenges.

Stocks of certain feeds, plants, garden and home improvement materials have been scarce as a direct result of the pandemic.

“Either everybody is already sold out or they’re just not in production because they don’t have the work crews,” Millner said.

“Roses just came in, but I don’t have all the names I was hoping,” she said. “I only have half the names that I ordered because they were already sold out. Right now bird foods aren’t available even though people are really wanting to feed the birds. They’re running out of things and lumber has skyrocketed. With bricks, including specific steppingstones, they are so far behind that when I went to order some they said not to expect any until June. I’ve been telling people to hurry up and buy the bricks available, or plan their patio later in the summer.”

Going green

While fine gifts and home improvement projects have been popular, the lines got especially longer at local pot shops this week with eager customers looking to spend a portion of their stimulus on restocking their personal stash.

“We’ve had a pretty good uptick of people, a lot saying they just got their stimulus and this is the first place they went,” said Freedom Market budtender Richard Nichols on Monday, March 22.

“They’re buying the same things they typically buy, just more high-end and more of it.”

A rush appeared unexpectedly in the middle of the last week, when the funds first became available for many.

“It started the first day people got their stimulus [Wednesday, March 24],” he said. “We pulled in about $2,000 more that day than we normally do.”

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