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.


ROI Co-Founders
ROI Co-Founders's Article
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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. 

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Since Labor Day in the US is the first Monday in September, this year it happens as late as possible. Labor Day will not be celebrated until next Monday, September 7. 

Most years, most folks would be perfectly happy to have August stretched out even longer. Ahh, those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer, right?

  • Well, we DO have the "crazy" part down pretty well. And "hazy"  rings true too, as the fog of uncertainty persists.
  • And now, imagine it: a Zoom Thanksgiving... OMG!

And so, meanwhile, we regard Consumer Confidence as THE key indicator of consumer spending. Just last week, the Conference Board reported that Consumer confidence is at a six year low*. Ouch!

But, was that a surprise to retailers? Not really. Most retailers are well along in coping with these challenges. 

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"Of course I want it today. If I wanted it tomorrow, I would have come in tomorrow." 

That's what we call "retail time." Retailers are comfortable with that pace; they enjoy the variety; they welcome the need to change and adjust. 

But, instead of just keeping life interesting, 2020 seems to have gone overboard in bringing changes and disruption to us all. The triple pandemic of the virus, the economy, and the civil unrest. And oh yes, it's also an election year. Enough already, right?

We think the most challenging part of this is the effect on our sense of time.

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Maybe you know someone like this. Or are related to them. Or are looking at them each day in the mirror.

You know; the restless, impatient ones. The entrepreneurs; the risk takers.  Those who want to be their own boss. "Do it myself!"

Our theory is that the changes spawned from these triple pandemics – the coronavirus, the economic meltdown, and the civil unrest – will also be evident in new business startups. And that includes all kind of new retail concepts. 

Out of this period of unprecedented frustration can come new-found backbones. 

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Have you noticed? "Covid fatigue" has been spreading lately. It seems to be almost as contagious as the virus itself. Ugh!

And small wonder. Even as parts of the economy strive to re-open, they only remind us of how different everything is.
  • Major League Baseball played in stadiums of cardboard cutouts of fans. The U.S. Open Golf Tournament with no spectators. Professional basketball teams in "the bubble" at Disney World. 
  • And some colleges preparing to resume fall classes have been described as "a cross between a seminary and a minimum-security prison."
Meanwhile, the U.S. Congress cannot agree on what should be done next. A nasty election campaign season looms. Protests are still happening in many locations. 

Remember this: all these things that contribute to our Covid fatigue, what we have called the "Pandemic Trifecta of 2020" – the virus, the economic meltdown, the national protests – all of these are uncontrollables. We all are victims of all three pandemics. 

But, you CAN control what you choose to do with your business going forward. Will you choose Door A, Door B or Door C? 

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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?

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