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.
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.
And we are talking about much more than the supply chain implications or the global economy. (For discussions about that, go here on the National Retail Federation website to see some resources specifically for retailers.)
The tornado of media and social media commentary on the subject makes it all the more important to "Keep calm, and carry on."
This is no time to overreact, nor to be dismissive. Look for the facts!
Our focus is on those impacts that demand the most judgment from owners.
That is, what are the implications for the people involved with your stores: your employees and their families, and your customers?
Meanwhile, how has your local community been impacted?
If a major employer has had work slowdowns (or closures), this will affect the buying power of your shoppers over the next few weeks and months.
Begin now to make adjustments to your planned budget for the year. If employees have been on sick leave, or your store has had reduced hours and/or days of being closed, that is revenue that is unlikely to be recouped. It's time to revisit your expense budget, and start to make adjustments.
While you're at it, be sure to make some adjustments to your buying plan! This is the time to consider the supply chain implications.
Meanwhile, are there orders that should be cancelled? Remember, when customers are able to return, they will not be looking for winter merchandise!
These are just some of the demanding judgment calls. The key, as always, is using the lead time. The sooner you begin, the more choices you will have.
Gather as many facts as you can, and then, yes, apply your best judgment!
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.
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!
As more stores are able to reopen, and more shoppers are willing to emerge, what will they encounter?
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?
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!"