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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Make Sure Your Store Is "Instagram-able"!

As your stores are able to re-open after the coronavirus shutdowns, how they look tells a powerful story. And for you, a great opportunity.

This is no time to try to go back to normal, back to business-as-usual. Nor to simply have all kinds of protective shields in your store. While necessary, how welcoming is that?

Instead, this actually IS a second chance to make a good first impression! Take full advantage!

Some restaurants have introduced well-dressed mannequins, or even stuffed animals, to occupy chairs and tables, instead of just blocking them off.*

  • How might your stores do something akin to that? 
  • How might you better use the "theatre of retail" to re-invigorate your stores?

The key takeaway: make it fun! To get you off to a running start, ask your staff to take the lead. Especially the younger ones. 

Your shoppers will return – maybe not to buy at first, but at least to say "Hello!" And when they do, you'd best have a fresh and fun look about your stores. 

Plus, be sure to make it "Instagram-able!" Start by having your staff take fun pictures and post them on Instagram. It could be a hoot! If your customers are eager to take selfies in your shops, and post them for their friends to see, how great is that?

  • Start with a new, more open layout for your store. And here's a plus: Often when store layouts are changed, even long time customers "discover" merchandise for the first time.
     
  • Don't forget about window displays. They set the tone for the new, fresh look inside. 
     
  • Carefully check your lighting. Mis-directed spots or other missed opportunities with lighting is a shame. 
     
  • Cluster merchandise in new ways, and in new places in your store. Shake it up!
     
  • Change up those in-store traffic patterns. And do away with any cul-de-sacs that lead to shopper congestion. Make them sitting areas for your mannequins. Or life-size cardboard cutouts of local sports figures? Or...?
     
  • Add new in-store signage, emphasizing new ways folks could be seeing your merchandise (and visualizing using it in their own life!)
     
  • Consider creating new and intentionally fleeting departments and names. Maybe even change them up each month, as you re-merchandise the floor. (The merchandise won't necessarily change; just how you are presenting it.) 
     
  • Also, be sure to showcase how customers can Buy Online, PickUp In Store (BOPIS).  Have  racks or shelves in an area upfront with already-bagged merchandise poised for pickup. Make that fun, too. 
     
  • Increasing BOPIS may mean bringing in some technology. But don't stop there! Maybe do more with mobile payments (enabling curbside pickup for those who choose that.)
     
  • Or, consider whether some of your merchandise could be offered via vending machines! Here is one example of a butcher who has done that with cuts of meat.** 

Each of these steps offer fine opportunities for being promoted on your social networks. This too could be a terrific project for your staff. Get them involved.

Those uses of new technology may allow you to reduce the hours that your physical store is open. Do you really need to be open all those days, and all those hours, if there are other ways for your customers to buy from you?

This is the perfect time to be revisiting all of those "that's the way we've always done it" practices. Remember, you're making a "first impression" again. 

The key: show that your store is embracing the reality of the demands of these pandemics, not resenting them. 

Makes for a much healthier, happier store for everyone! Much easier and appropriate for independents to do. And the Big Guys can't match it.

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Suzanne Rowan Kelleher, Restaurants Are Using Mannequins, Blow-Up Dolls And More to Enforce Social Distancing. Forbes.com, May 19, 2020.

** Tracy Schumacher, Would you buy meat from a vending machine? A butcher in NY is betting on it. USA Today, June 1, 2020. 



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