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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Not Just WHETHER to Re-Open. WHAT to Re-Open?

Some thoughts from Nordstrom leadership that are spot on!

  • “We started this company from scratch, so what would we want to be, knowing what we know now? It’s clear we can expect a new normal. And it's up to us to decide what that will look like. We're each being presented with the unique opportunity to create a future worth envisioning.”

That's what Nordstrom President and Chief Brand Officer Pete Nordstrom told Puget Sound Business Journal columnist Patti Payne on April 23, 2020.

And what he succinctly stated is exactly the challenge – and opportunity – that is confronting all retail owners. 

In order to answer whether you should re-open once you can, you first must be very confident in WHAT kind of retail operation you will be re-opening.

The only certainty of the aftermath of the pandemic is that everything will be different. Given that, what better time to re-imagine your business?

Time to think about priorities, and to make some lists. This can be for your eyes only at the start. But you do need to pick your favorites. 

  • Which customer groups do you most want to serve? 
    Of those at the top of your list, do you have an established following? Or is this an aspirational target market for you?

     
  • Which vendors do you most want to continue with? Grow with?
    And yes, which vendors or lines or categories are you most comfortable letting slip away?


Now, sit back for a moment: given your top priorities for merchandise and customers, what needs to change in your operation to best accomplish that? 

Time to unleash your imagination! For instance, think about your stores themselves:

  • Which ones are definite keepers?
  • Which, if any, would you like to relocate?
  • Which, if any, would you like some square footage changes?


What else might need to be re-invigorated?  How about your staff? 
Does this new vision take better advantage of their talents and strengths? 

  • If not, how readily are people with those talents available to you?
  • When will you start searching for them?


What we are starting here is a cycle of Owner Questions:

  • WHETHER to re-open depends on WHAT to be when you re-open, and WHO your customers, vendors, and staff will be. 
  • And WHO those folks are drives WHAT you need to be. And WHETHER and WHEN to make that happen. 
Cause-effect. Cause-effect. Cause-effect.

Here's the good news: Once you work through that cycle a time or two, you will have an actual, pro-active framework for HOW to go forward. 

And, you very likely will be re-energized. Frankly, that's your most essential ingredient going forward! 
  • Now you can re-double your efforts to clear out the pre-COVID inventory, because you know which is no longer relevant for your future.
  • Same with your store locationsWhich landlords do you really need going forward?  
  • And your staff: what do they need to be better able to achieve this new vision? 
  • The role of the internet: Do you need it for actually selling merchandise? Or communicating better? 

And here's a key thought: get an online appointment scheduling tool, whether or not you offer a "personal shopper" program.
  • There may be initial mandates about customer counts in stores.
  • But even without that, allowing customers to schedule a time to come shop increases their sense of control, which will be very crucial going forward.  

See? There ARE Choices!
Now, as we all work to emerge from the pandemic and the economic crisis, let's remember that now we actually DO have choices. 

There will be no better time in our lifetimes to rewrite the script for your stores. Four blocks from our office Pete and Erik Nordstrom are going through the very same thing.

You have good company!


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