Consumer Uncertainty Overshadows Georgia’s Reopening, Atlanta Fed Chief Says

Georgia's reopening has been mixed, Atlanta Fed president says

Raphael Bostic, president of the Atlanta Federal Reserve, called Georgia’s reopening rollout a “mixed bag” in which only parts of the state were eager to go back out.

The other half, according to him, seemed to be staying in more often out of lingering virus fears.

Bostic said the early parts of the reopening had taken some steps forward, although it wasn’t yet at a point where most businesses were seeing the same levels of foot traffic as they had been before.

The reduced numbers, Bostic said, stemmed from people still harboring concerns over whether it’s safe to go out yet.

Georgia’s initial push to reopen occurred in late April as Gov. Brian Kemp ordered mandatory reopenings of businesses like bowling alleys and hair salons so long as they were utilizing the proper social distancing; at the time, it was the most aggressive and forward initiative to “reopen the economy” that had been taken.

But despite Kemp’s reassurances, the gamble didn’t result in a deluge of new business.

Mario Zelaya, CEO of Bad Axe, an axe-throwing establishment that is also a bar, reported disappointing returns, with just two customers coming in all weekend, according to Bisnow Atlanta’s reporting.

Manicurists, hairdressers and barbers attempting to reopen also saw dismal turnouts, with many of them saying that level of business would not be sustainable to keep running a business.

Bostic, speaking a month after Kemp’s initial reopening push, said his concerns lie in the still-widespread unemployment numbers, as he hoped to find clarity on how permanent those numbers were. Bostic also remained cautious about the possibility of a second wave of the virus down the road. That being said, recent coronavirus numbers reported by Georgia have seemed to be trending downward.

Many consumers, polled in a recent PYMNTS survey, didn’t seem fussed about the potential to return to pre-pandemic life. An overwhelming majority of respondents said their primary concern was staying safe from the virus, before anything else.