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.

Lead Time: Use It or Lose It!

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. 

We cannot predict the trajectory or timing of the recovery. What we do recommend, however, is an alternative to just worrying about it. There IS something you can do!

LEAD TIME:  USE OR LOSE IT!" 
One good way to get beyond the worry is to take advantage of The ROI's 3-in-1 Cash Flow Calculator, which we've made available for free to everyone during this time. 

  • Play "what if...?" for your own business and situation
  • See the likely financial outcomes of each potential "new normal" plan.  


This is empowering! Being able to compare and contrast different approaches opens up a whole new level of problem solving.

  • Even the "outrageous" ideas can be examined. Oh look, maybe that is  plausible. And spark some other idea that can be pursued enthusiastically (once it has proven that it "pencils out," of course.) 
  • And those ideas, earnestly suggested, that don't quite pencil out? Everyone can see the results for themselves; no need to take it personally. A powerful way to keep everyone focused on finding what will work.  


Best of all, you are using the lead time to make key strategic decisions that you can have confidence in financially.

BUT WHAT ABOUT SALES? 
This being retail, the 3-in-1 Cash Flow Calculator needs a plan for expected monthly sales and margins, which is of course what everyone is worried about. What will happen to sales?

So, here are some ideas to get you started in thinking of your stores sales in new ways.

With a fresh set of eyes, take another look around your stores. Remember, your customers have been spending more time at home and/or with family. 

  • You may have merchandise that has a new-found interest for your customers;  Let them know about it!
  • Be ready for when the customers can return.  Change out your displays; pair up merchandise in new ways; move it to a new place in your store (maybe with instructions on how to use?) 


STUDY THEIR HABITS 
Use this time to dive into the data residing in your POS system, and turn it into information! 

Learn much more about your customers. They are not a monolithic group.

  • Some are shopping for themselves; others are shopping for their families.
  • Some only buy merchandise that is marked down; others want the latest "What's new?" 
  • Some like to linger and visit with staff, especially midday; others need to get in and out quickly on evenings or weekends. 


All of this can give you some great guidance about how to segment your market, and when and how to promote more effectively to your customers.

  • Those price hounds should be well-informed about your initial clearances as you seek to get rid of excess inventory.
  • Others will appreciate advance notice of when you are getting new, fresh items in.
  • Use the findings about the time-pressed shoppers to match them with your most efficient staff people; schedule your patient staff during the weekdays. 


WHO WILL YOUR FUTURE CUSTOMERS BE? 
While you are at it, think Big Picture about your customers and your market.

  • Of course, this too can be informed by data. Check with your public library, Chamber of Commerce, local Economic Development Council, or online. 


This can give you general market data. The question then becomes, how similar is the profile of your shoppers to your market overall? Again, close counts.  

  • What do your shoppers depend on for their livelihood?
  • How much has that been jeopardized?
  • What might that mean to their purchasing?
  • How relevant is what you are selling today to what they will need tomorrow?
  • And would they buy that from your stores?


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. 



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