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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Is Being First Smart?

A few years ago, during a planning session in our office, we drew a quick diagram on a whiteboard. It showed three shapes. 

  • The large rectangle at the top was labeled "What we COULD do" Lots of good ideas deserved a place in this box!
  • The much smaller rectangle below it was labeled "What  we SHOULD do" Ahh yes, those pesky obligations. 
  • And finally, at the bottom, was a tiny little square: "What we WILL do!" 

Out of all of the potential things we could do, which ones truly warrant our time, energy, and resources?

That picture keeps coming to mind as the COVID-19 shutdown orders on retailers of "non-essential" goods are starting to be lifted. 

No matter when your locale receives the "official" go-ahead, you must decide:

  • Just because you COULD re-open, should your stores be among the first to re-open?
  • Or would it be better to point toward re-opening, say, 60 or 90 days from now?
  • You're smart; maybe your anxiety needs to be held in check?

Look, your stores already are shut down. The costs of re-opening include not only the usual costs to staff the store and turn on the lights each day, but now you also must comply with social distancing and health monitoring for both employees and shoppers.

Plus, your employees may or may not be available, depending on their age, their health, their childcare needs, and their willingness to deal with the general public right now.

And what about your customers? How eager are they to spend right now on discretionary items? Especially those whose return to work is uncertain until the schools and childcare centers resume?

  • So, why not take the same wait-and-see attitude that your customers (and much of the general public) are taking?
  • Why rush to re-open?
  • Why not take advantage of the next 60-90 days to see what happens in your community?

Meanwhile, as reported by Paul Wiseman of the Associated Press*,  the economy could be headed for a dreaded W-shaped recovery. 

  • "Some experts see an ominous risk: That a too-hasty relaxation of social distancing could ignite a resurgence of COVID-19 cases by fall, sending the economy back into lockdown. The result: a W-shaped disaster in which a tentative recovery would sink back into a 'double-dip' recession before rebounding eventually."

Keep that picture in mind: What COULD we do? What SHOULD we do? What WILL we do!! And WHEN should we do it?


*Risk of reopening US economy too fast: A W-shaped recovery. Paul Wiseman, Associated Press. The Seattle Times, May 11, 2020.

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