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Tuesday, May 28
The Indiana Daily Student

city bloomington

Eclipse successful for local businesses despite lower visitor numbers than anticipated

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The week of April 1 made record sales at the South College Mall Road Kroger with a surge in customers Thursday and Friday before business slowed down that weekend, store co-manager Steve Dyer said. He assumed that the increase in business was from Bloomington locals preparing for the eclipse and the expected influx of tourists.  

Bloomington city officials were expecting up to 200-300,000 visitors for the April 8 eclipse, during which the city was in the path of totality for over four minutes. Businesses were cautioned to prepare for supply shortages, shipment delays and traffic that could interfere with operations. The eclipse had the potential for the city and its local businesses to earn a boost in revenue, should they be able to handle it.  

The Kroger store ordered extra inventory.  

“We were ready for it,” Dyer said. “We were ready in case it was what Bloomington called a worst-case scenario. We were prepared.” 

However, the anticipated number of visitors didn’t arrive like the city had prepared Bloomington for. While the exact number of visitors is still unknown, early estimates say the city likely saw tens of thousands of visitors instead, as reported by The Herald Times.  

Any excess inventory left in the store was sold within a few days. Like Dyer had assumed, the increase in Kroger’s sales was likely from the local population, as most tourists wouldn’t have arrived by the end of the week. Some Bloomington residents felt discouraged from leaving their homes during the weekend of the eclipse when the city expected that traffic would be the biggest challenge.  

Malibu Grill, an American-style restaurant located on Bloomington’s courthouse square, was also preparing for the mass influx of visitors, ordering extra food and scheduling extra staff. Elliott Green, Malibu Grill general manager, said that eclipse day was a disappointment.  

“We prepared for it to be extremely, extremely busy,” Green said. “We overstaffed and we overordered food and product and all that. It was disappointing for sure. It just felt like it was a busy Monday. That’s all it really was.”  

Green said that Malibu Grill was surprised by the amount of business on Monday as the day before was one of the restaurant’s busiest Sundays it had ever had. Even with less customers than expected, Malibu Grill wasn’t left with excess products that went to waste from overordering. The general manager said the restaurant turns over enough volume that inventory didn’t need to be thrown away.  

“It was more of a letdown than frustration,” Green said.  

Other businesses tried to monetize the eclipse’s grandness by making specialty merchandise. Jordan Henry designed T-shirts for Greetings, a gift shop just one block from campus. She worked in the store on the day of the eclipse. 

“A lot of people did buy specifically the eclipse stuff, but it wasn’t a crazy day” Henry said. “It was kind of like it was one of the football games. We had a couple people scheduled, but somebody ended up leaving early because it wasn’t too busy.”  

Henry said customers were asking about eclipse merchandise three to four weeks in advance.  

Greetings employees took count of how many eclipse T-shirts were sold. Twenty-five specialty eclipse T-shirts were sold on April 5, 77 on April 6, 159 on April 7 and 110 on April 8. The store also carried eclipse themed mugs, posters, postcards and stickers which Henry found customers liked to buy in bulk. By the end of eclipse day, Henry expects there were only five to 10 shirts left, which sold in the days following.  

“I think that it was not as successful as anticipated because of the high numbers we were told,” Henry said. “But I do know that there were a lot of sales and a lot of people. It was more just steady.”  

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