From The Co-Founders


Tips, Tactics & Strategic Insights and Commentary
from The ROI Co-Founders, Pat Johnson and Dick Outcalt
Outcalt & Johnson: Retail Strategists LLC; Retail Turnaround Experts

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That's a sign of the times, isn't it?

While retailers are more accustomed than most folks to cope with change, 2020's unrelenting flexibility tests have been a challenge. Forget about five years. Retailers have to be ready for the next five months! It's back-to-school and then Holiday.

The only certainty about the next five months is that they will probably feel like the past five months. Yet you still must run a retail business. And that means you still must buy and sell merchandise. 

The opportunities – and the pressures – are mounting.

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Yes, we know. Owning a retail business these days is one flexibility test after another. And there are no one-size-fits-all solutions. 

In the United States, one of the most widespread impacts of the virus is uncertainty. With no end in sight. It is the virus that is in charge. As the president of Alaska Airlines noted, "We don't know what the future looks like."*

But the fact remains, whomever is selling to the ultimate consumer has leverage. Might that be you?

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So, say you have re-opened your stores. Then what? Did the customers come back? 

Or, were many of those who did show up just there to say "Hello!" And "We missed you!", but not to buy? Sigh.

We are not surprised. And here's why.


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For retailers, the uncertainties caused by the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic are unrelenting. 

  • "'It seems that social distancing mandates won’t be the only thing keeping crowds down at businesses moving forward,' said Ted Rossman, industry analyst at 'A significant number of Americans plan to stay away on their own accord.'” 1

So, what should we do with this additional "found time," waiting for the customers? That's a question we CAN answer!

As you are sorting out how best to reopen, we encourage you to be bold about embracing technology. Not just a POS system upgrade with better e-commerce capability. There's much more that warrants your attention. 

There's a whole alphabet of resources out there, already being embraced by many: ML (machine learning); AI (artificial intelligence); AR (augmented reality), QR (Quick Response matrix barcodes). All enabling chatbots, robots, digital displays and much else to become "smarter" and more applicable. 

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Don't you feel that we're in a period of heightened uncertainty? 

Whether it's the economy, or unemployment, or grocery prices, or sports resuming, or the weather, or racial tensions, or the costs  of everything, or the questions coming at us from family and employees that we cannot answer, everything seems uncertain, doesn't it? And there is no end in sight.

But...we as retailers can be leaders in our communities and in our  daily lives. We have the opportunity to tamp down some of those uncertainties.

Look at this sign a local merchant posted.

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As your stores are able to re-open after the coronavirus shutdowns, how they look tells a powerful story. And for you, a great opportunity.

This is no time to try to go back to normal, back to business-as-usual. Nor to simply have all kinds of protective shields in your store. While necessary, how welcoming is that?

Instead, this actually IS a second chance to make a good first impression! Take full advantage!

There are three "pandemics" assailing us at the moment: the coronavirus; the economic collapse; the protests of racial injustice. The three months plus of stay at home restrictions and the shutdowns, and the confluence of these three pandemics has been a heavy burden. And it shows no signs of going away anytime soon.

As the coronavirus continues to spread and surge (Apple re-closing 11 stores they had recently re-opened is a sobering reminder), the uncertainty and anxiety is only being prolonged.


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We believe there are not one, but three(!) pandemics occurring simultaneously right now. Of course, the COVID-19 virus elevated the word "pandemic" to a status that identifies even a generation of babies. 

But the other two pandemics are equally paralyzing: the nationwide (even worldwide) protests of racial injustice, and the severe unemployment from the economic collapse. 

Indeed, three concurrent, worldwide sinkholes. We call it the "pandemic trifecta of 2020."

So, what's an intelligent retailer to think now?!

Here's one idea that we believe can help you have more confidence in your immediate decisions. Think beyond this week and this month.