For retailers, the uncertainties caused by the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic are unrelenting.
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.
Consider these examples of virtual try-ons:
Or this: live, interactive shopping...on a smart phone app!
How about making your brick-and-mortar space work for you 24/7?
Meanwhile, trade associations are accelerating their adoption of technology as their ability to hold trade shows is shut down. Retailers will be exposed to much of this as they participate in "virtual trade shows."
Our view on technology is that it never can replace human judgment. Indeed, we always have bristled at Amazon's stated intent to "replace the art of retailing with the science of retailing."
Yet we believe all this bodes very well for independent retailers.
We encourage you to take advantage of this time to explore all this.
There is no future in being a technology laggard. Surely there are some tools here that would be right at home in your retail operation going forward. We urge you to find out.
1 Stephanie Asymkos, Americans plan to spend more in these two areas as economy reopens. Yahoo Money, July 8, 2020.
2 Virtual try-ons are replacing fitting rooms during the pandemic. Abba Bhattarai, The Washington Post, July 9, 2020.
3 A Live-Streaming Challenger to Amazon, Facebook: Popshop Live Gives Small Stores a Lifeline. Joan Verdon, Forbes. July 8, 2020.
4 Five Unique Ways to Decorate Your Storefront Window Display, Holly Kemp, Manta. June 29, 2020.
5 A Socially Distant Toy Fair: Toy Makers Learn the New Rules of Virtual Play. Joan Verdon, Forbes, July 12, 2020.
According to the calendar, as of March 21, it officially is springtime. No matter what the weather is doing.
Well, it's time to bring the calendar to real life! Spring is really a state of mind! The dark winter has passed. Even the rain is warmer in the spring. And new growth is beginning to sprout; leaves are coming out. It's a wonderful, fresh outlook.
And that of course means it is a wonderful opportunity for retailers to refresh and reenergize their stores.
No matter what merchandise you sell - whether it's tires, apparel, books, housewares, office supplies, whatever - every retailer is in the fashion business.
And that means that your customers are wanting what is new and fresh.You know; "in fashion."
One of the real killers of a retail business can be debt. But, how much is too much?
Debt can be quite stealthy as it grows.
Especially in these times of increasing interest rates, creeping expansion of debt can quickly snowball into a much larger problem.
From the Benchmark pages on The ROI site, we have selected four retail verticals whose Debt-to-Worth ratio shows a frightening situation. The technical term we would use is "spooky, real spooky."
(click on each chart to see all key ratios for that vertical)
There's little that any of us can do to address the public health crisis of the pandemic. Its impact on people and businesses is a widespread and major jolt, akin to the shocks of 9/11 and the 2008-09 economic meltdown.
Even as painful and disruptive as the pandemic is at this moment, we must remind ourselves that it will subside. It's not whether it will subside, just when.
But all of us are going to have to deal with the ensuing economic situation, and its effects on our sales, our customers, our employees.
These are difficult times for us all. Retailing in particular is under enormous stress. Many feel like there are no good choices.
But, there are good decisions. And The ROI is dedicated to helping you be able to make those good decisions for yourself.
As the global efforts to "flatten the curve" of the coronavirus pandemic continue, there is another curve that is being flattened. That would be the seasonality of retail sales.
And this may prove to be what really defines the New Normal for retailers.
The customary peaks of retail spending have been flattened.
You've seen all the headlines. Worldwide inflation. Dire warnings of a coming recession. Big time discounts at retailers due to boatloads of inventory. Amazon doubling down on their Prime Day(s) sales. Shoppers shopping early in anticipation of rising prices.
Shaping up to be yet another "unprecedented" Holiday season for retailers, isn't it?
And a wonderful opportunity for all merchants!
How best to start? Set the boundaries.
Next, establish clear routines for monitoring inventory levels.
Independent retailers are renowned for being "technology laggards." Those days have to end!
As you wait and worry about re-opening your stores, the state of the economy, the health and safety of your family and friends and employees, here is an idea of what you might do with some of your found time.
When you do re-open, be sure that you are actually in the 21st Century! Put your energy, your resilience, and your flexibility to use, focusing on improving your IT.
The goal: When you re-open, be even better than your competition! And more relevant to your shoppers.
Still less than $1 a day! 👀