Richardson chamber CEO: Success of retail to-go hinges on overall health of economy

With Gov. Greg Abbott's order allowing "retail to go" operations, many Richardson storefronts are preparing to offer new curbside and delivery services. (Iain Oldman/Community Impact Newspaper)
With Gov. Greg Abbott's order allowing "retail to go" operations, many Richardson storefronts are preparing to offer new curbside and delivery services. (Iain Oldman/Community Impact Newspaper)

With Gov. Greg Abbott's order allowing "retail to go" operations, many Richardson storefronts are preparing to offer new curbside and delivery services. (Iain Oldman/Community Impact Newspaper)

Nonessential retailers forced to shutter can now reopen on a to-go basis following an executive order from Gov. Greg Abbott intended to jump-start an economy ravaged by COVID-19.

The move is a step in the right direction, said Bill Sproull, Richardson Chamber of Commerce president and CEO. It is especially meaningful for businesses in the Dallas County portion of Richardson, which have been subject to more stringent regulations than those in Collin County, he said.

“In my perspective, they should have been allowed to operate on [a] to-go retail basis as opposed to just being totally locked down,” he said.

Prior to the statewide executive order, people living in Richardson were subject to guidelines based on their county of residence, which meant there was not a unified set of rules for residents citywide. Richardson City Council quickly intervened and approved one set of guidelines that aligned with the governor’s.

The city’s adherence to statewide orders ultimately paid off for retailers in Richardson who may have been divided along county lines in terms of what they are able to offer.


“We want one unified set of rules for all of Richardson,” Sproull said. “It makes no sense to have different sets of rules. It just causes confusion and anger.”

Without knowing exactly how many retailers were forced to close, it is difficult to gauge the impact loosened restrictions will have on Richardson’s economy, Sproull said. However, if even a handful of businesses reopen, it matters to the well-being of the overall community.

“It’s darn important to those retailers who were forced to close, and this now gives them an opportunity to open back up,” he said.

Richardson’s business community is at an advantage because it is largely made up of tech, manufacturing and financial companies, the majority of which have been able to quickly pivot to a virtual platform, Sproull said.

It took only six days for the city’s largest employer, State Farm, to get its 10,000-person staff working remotely, Sproull said. Texas Instruments continues to manufacture and is moving along with construction of its expanded semiconductor factory on Alma Road.

“The tech community and the finance and insurance industry was probably better prepared than most to work virtually and continue operations,” he said.

Sproull and Richardson Mayor Paul Voelker are members of the Collin County Economic Recovery Task Force, a group in charge of developing guidelines for reopening local economies.

The Richardson chamber is not formally represented in Dallas County’s task force; however, Sproull said he has communicated with county Judge Clay Jenkins and that he has faith in his regional chamber colleagues who are part of that effort.

“I’m confident they’ve got their arms around this, so I don’t feel slighted because I wasn’t asked to be a part of it.”

Several factors at play will determine the success of retail to-go on revitalizing the economy. At a time when millions of Americans are filing for unemployment, many may opt to preserve their cash.

“The retailers that are getting to open up today on retail to go—where is their customer base?” Sproull said. “How willing are people going to be to spend?”

Loosened restrictions are only as successful as the public’s willingness to take advantage of them, Sproull said. Businesses need to understand that financial and emotional factors will likely dictate the speed at which the economy bounces back.

“Human behavior is going to lag [behind the reopening of the economy] by quite a bit,” he said. “We’ve taken a pretty big economic punch.”

Small businesses are the life force of the community, Sproull said, so it is crucial that residents continue to support them in a manner that is safe and comfortable.

“They are our family. They’re part of our community,” he said. “They’re people, and they deserve livelihoods.”
By Olivia Lueckemeyer
Olivia Lueckemeyer graduated in 2013 from Loyola University New Orleans with a degree in journalism. She joined Community Impact Newspaper in October 2016 as reporter for the Southwest Austin edition before her promotion to editor in March 2017. In July 2018 she returned home to the Dallas area and became editor of the Richardson edition.