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.
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.*
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?
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.
* 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.
Let's assume your stores have been closed for weeks now.
We recognize how conscientious you are. So, after paying what you can to your employees (and yourself), the next most-worrisome dilemma is your rent.
As you likely have discovered, a common choice for many landlords is to offer to defer your payments. But that means taking on more debt, as those payments are only being postponed to a later point in time.
You need a better solution than that.
Alas, there is really no way to avoid discussing COVID-19, the coronavirus that began in China last month, and now continues to spread throughout the world.
No matter whether or when it is officially declared a "pandemic," the uncertainty and angst that it is generating have troubling implications for retailers.
Each of us, our households, businesses and communities are in different stages of shutdown due to the coronavirus.
While we cannot speak to when this will end, we do have some ideas for dealing with the "fog of uncertainty" that hangs over us all.
Retailing is so great. Every retailer is an optimist, a people-person, and a bold risk taker. (We know; we were one.) Every retailer wants to get their stores re-opened, and their staff people re-employed.
Granted, there are many arguments, pro and con, about "Re-Opening the Economy." And in a number of communities in the U.S. and elsewhere, some re-opening of stores and restaurants is occurring.
As more stores are able to reopen, and more shoppers are willing to emerge, what will they encounter?
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.
Since 1999, empowering retailers and store owners to "Turn on your financial headlights!"