Independent Retailers and the COVID-19 Crisis

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Since March 2, 2020, The ROI's Co-Founders have been offering insights, strategic approaches, and online resources for independent retailers affected by the COVID-19 crisis.

These appeared first in The ROI NEWS.

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Since we first established The Retail OWNERS Institute®, we have asserted that the greatest growth opportunity in retailing is between the ears of the owners. And nothing since then – not even (or maybe especially!) –  a once-in-a-century pandemic has diminished our belief. 

Independent retailers and restauranteurs have been among the first business owners to pivot to a survival mode. Why? Because they have had plenty of practice! 

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As we introduced last week, the New Normal for retailers is already here. It is a new "retail clock." 

  • "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."

Of course, it is not just retailers who have been affected; the shoppers also have been adapting. But whereas retailers think in terms of seasons (weeks and months), the shoppers are adjusting their patterns at the daily and weekly level.

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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.

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Is 2020 continuing to wear you down? No surprise. And no shame in that!

Retailers are among the most optimistic folks we know. But the relentlessness of the disruptions and in some cases tragedies of the three pandemics – the virus, the economic meltdown, and the civil unrest – followed by the wildfires in the West and the hurricanes in the Southeast, now compounded by the uncertainties of national election. Oh, and then there's the impending flu season. And... And...

It IS a lot. And it feels as if there is no relief in sight. But maybe there is. 

 

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Believe it! A second chance to make a good first impression!


Yes, the shoppers WILL be returning. But boy, have they learned a lot during these pandemic times. 

They are far more comfortable with online shopping, and in many cases, eager to continue that. And the convenience of "contactless" features like curbside pickup and BOPIS (Buy Online, Pickup In Store) are welcomed.

In fact, an extensive survey from McKinsey & Company* provides considerable detail about the newly-learned online shopping behaviors of customers, and their expectations of continuing to use these new-found skills. 

Particular changes with presumed staying power: 

  • More online shopping
  • Less brand loyalty
  • Need for "hygiene transparency"
  • Back to basics & value
  • Rise of the homebody economy

But hold it. Wait just a minute. Our countervailing view is that the "homebody economy" will wear thin. And while customers do care even more about basics and value, especially when it comes to Holiday shopping, they will want "special." 

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"Retailing dead?" Hardly!

“Retailing” is selling to the ultimate consumer. That is not going away, in spite of the current perception. 

What IS (appropriately!) endangered? Deadly retail real estate! 
Conventional, impersonal, and boring brick-n-mortar stores are deadly.

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Many Americans who can afford to save money – thanks to reduced spending on eating out, vacations, and consumer goods – are playing it safe and hoarding their cash, according to recent research by Gallup/Franklin Templeton.* 

And those who currently are saving at least a little money largely plan to keep saving rather than spending in the near term.

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We once knew a lady of an earlier generation who steadfastly championed the idea that Labor Day should be considered New Year's Eve, and the Tuesday after Labor Day as the start of the New Year. (Yes, she was ahead of her time in many other ways as well.)

Here's her reasoning about the "real" New Year's Eve: as summer fades away and vacations end, the new school year starts up; the baseball season pennant race is on; football games begin. As all this happens, she explained, most people take on a renewed sense of energy. 

The promise of a fresh start is everywhere. Optimism abounds!  

Wouldn't 2020 be a great year to cut short? Aren't we all ready to turn the page on it?

Well, while we cannot do it officially, we can embrace that New Year state of mind. 

Since 1999, empowering retailers and store owners to "Turn on your financial headlights!"