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.
That's a sign of the times, isn't it?
While retailers are more accustomed than most folks to cope with change, 2020's unrelenting flexibility tests have been a challenge. Forget about five years. Retailers have to be ready for the next five months! It's back-to-school and then Holiday.
The only certainty about the next five months is that they will probably feel like the past five months. Yet you still must run a retail business. And that means you still must buy and sell merchandise.
The opportunities – and the pressures – are mounting.
Your vendors are more eager than ever to meet their own sales goals. And emerging online wholesale marketplaces touting "guaranteed sales" and 60 day terms and small minimum orders seem to be multiplying, thanks to deep-pocketed investors.
Not only is there the traditional pressure from the vendors to "buy more, save more," there now are the online sales techniques: "Retailers who bought this also bought this..."
How best for retailers to take advantage of these new resources...and still have any cash?
It's all in having a plan, a buying budget. And having the confidence to stick to it.
Amidst all of the uncertainty of 2020, there is a way for retailers to do just that.
It starts with making some savvy assumptions about expected sales. Then, at The ROI, your sales assumptions can be turned into an inventory buying plan – in nanoseconds. All on your own.
A game plan, a path forward. Some semblance of clarity. What could be better?
First, make your assumptions about the sales you anticipate for back to school and the Holiday season. Given the on-going uncertainty of the virus, few specialty retailers will meet or exceed last year's results.
So, start by looking at last year's back-to-school and Holiday results, and dial them back for this year. 60% of 2019? 75%? Be as realistic as you can.
Next, a critical step: nail down your assumptions about the MERCHANDISE MIX you will need. (For more about this, see New Dynamics of Merchandise Mix and Post-Covid-19: Five Stages of Inventory Management.) Don't be shy about your assumptions.
Now, turn all this into something you can use to make some decisions. Put these sales assumptions into The ROI's online Multi-Department Open-to-Buy Planner. It's easy and fast for retailers.
And that's it. Immediately, for each of these categories, you have a monthly inventory buying budget. And it happened "auto-magically!"
These OTB plans become the guardrails for you and your buyers. Within those budget parameters, you then apply your best judgment of which vendors to purchase from, and what items to select. You also will have a ready answer when a "special buy" pops up: do we have any Open-to-Buy?
This unique online "calculator" is a tool developed specially for owners. It enables you to quickly develop a game plan for your store, all on your own. Auto-magically!
And, you can update this game plan as the game unfolds. Adjust and tweak it whenever needed. All on your own. 24/7. No additional cost.
This is its time. Take advantage and make this your time too!
A few years ago, during a planning session in our office, we drew a quick diagram on a whiteboard. It showed three shapes.
Out of all of the potential things we could do, which ones truly warrant our time, energy, and resources?
That picture keeps coming to mind as the COVID-19 shutdown orders on retailers of "non-essential" goods are starting to be lifted.
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.
Yes, the shoppers WILL be returning. But boy, have they learned a lot during these pandemic times.
They are far more comfortable with online shopping, and in many cases, eager to continue that. And the convenience of "contactless" features like curbside pickup and BOPIS (Buy Online, Pickup In Store) are welcomed.
In fact, an extensive survey from McKinsey & Company* provides considerable detail about the newly-learned online shopping behaviors of customers, and their expectations of continuing to use these new-found skills.
Particular changes with presumed staying power:
But hold it. Wait just a minute. Our countervailing view is that the "homebody economy" will wear thin. And while customers do care even more about basics and value, especially when it comes to Holiday shopping, they will want "special."
The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly gained the respect of the general public.
Surveys continue to show that, while folks are eager to be able to resume moving about, they do not expect to resume their pre-pandemic discretionary shopping and dining activities anytime soon. They are awaiting effective treatments or, even better, a vaccine.
Main Street restauranteurs and retailers understand that, according to survey results reported April 27.* In fact, these owners anticipate it could take another eight months – that is, most of the year – for consumer demand to reach the so-called "New Normal."
Since 1999, empowering retailers and store owners to "Turn on your financial headlights!"